Book Review and Giveaway: Cavern of the Veil Queen, by Michael Scott Clifton

BNR Cavern of the Veil Queen

 

About the book, Cavern of the Veil Queen

(Conquest of the Veil, Book 4)Cover Cavern of the Veil Hi Res

  • Fiction / Fantasy / Action / Sword & Sorcery
  • Publisher: Book Liftoff
  • Pages: 342 pages
  • Publication Date: July 27, 2022
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY

The Empire of Meredith has waged war against the Veil Queen for over a thousand years.

However, the struggle is unequal. Protected by the Veil, an impenetrable boundary of magic, the Veil Queen preys on the Empire’s citizens. The ceaseless raids have allowed her to build an enormous army of melds, monstrous creatures who are a fusion of humans and beasts.

Then a way is found through the magical partition. An invasion is launched to defeat the Dark Queen. But she’s had centuries to plot treachery. Is the open portal real or a misdirection, another of her evil schemes?

Alexandria’s new husband, Prince Tal, has wielded his formidable magic repeatedly in the struggle. But the key to victory may not lie with his power, but with Alex’s wild and unpredictable magic. If she can discover a way to control it, they have a chance to end the war and destroy the Veil. It requires only two things.

Find the Veil Queen…and kill her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Michael Scott Clifton

Author Pic CliftonMulti award-winning author Michael Scott Clifton, a longtime public educator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, his books contain facets of all the genres he enjoys—action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance.

His fantasy novels, The Janus Witch, The Open Portal (Book I in the Conquest of the Veil series), and Escape from Wheel (Book II), all received 5-Star reviews from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews. The Open Portal has also been honored with a Feathered Quill Book Finalist Award. In addition, Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator earned a 2021 Feathered Quill Book Award Bronze Medal in the Teen Readers category. Two of his short stories have won Gold Medals, with Edges of Gray winning the Texas Authors Contest, and The End Game winning the Northeast Texas Writer’s Organization Contest. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education journal.

Connect with Michael:

Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub | Website

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My Thoughts

MissMelissI haven’t been reading a lot of fantasy lately – my reading goes in cycles, and for some reason this has been the summer of historicals – but I was happy to revisit Michael Scott Clifton’s work with this book, Cavern of the Veil Queen, especially since I loved another book from this author, The Janus Witch, which I reviewed in 2018. This novel completes the series begun with The Open Portal, and while I have not read the first two entries in this collection, I did read and enjoy book three, A Witch’s Brew. I did not find myself at a loss because I hadn’t read the whole series, and this book works quite well as a stand-alone novel, which, to me, is a sign of excellent storytelling.

While the magic system in this novel is certainly unique, I am typically more drawn to characters and story than setting. That said, world-building is an important component of any story that doesn’t take place on contemporary Earth, and Clifton has a deft hand in his construction. I felt like the Empire of Meredith was a real place that is just a bit sideways from my own world, and reading this book is very like a visit there. The world in the Conquest of the Veil novels is rich and vibrant, replete with interesting characters whether human, beast, or something in between.

My favorite part of the story, however, is the relationship between Alexandria (Alex) and her new husband Tal. Starting a relationship is easy; sustaining one, as any married person knows, takes patience, kindness, and hard work. All of those are in evidence in the way these characters and their relationship is depicted, and watching them work together to overcome their struggles, and help Alex learn to control her magic was something I really enjoyed. Alex and Tal are so authentic and interesting, that I’d love to be a guest at their table, or have them as guests at mine.

As the final book in a series, this book did not disappoint. The climax was brilliantly unexpected, and the aftermath was satisfying, but also left the door open a crack, just in case another visit to Meredith suits the author’s fancy in the future.

Bottom line: This is a great stand-alone read, though reading the three previous books would enhance the experience.

Goes well with:  a grouper reuben, hand-cut fries, and sweet tea.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS:

One Winner: Signed Paperback of Cavern of the Veil Queen and bookmark;

One Winner: Complete Conquest of the Veil Series eBooks;

Three Winners: eBook of Cavern of the Veil Queen.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, September 17, 2022.)

 

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Book Spotlight and Giveaway: The Flower Engima by Charles Breakfield & Rox Burkey

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About the book, The Flower Enigma

Cover Flower EnigmaBook 5 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles

  • Small Town Mystery / Suspense / Amateur Sleuths
  • Publisher: ICABOD Press
  • Pages: 198 pages
  • Publication Date: August 20, 2022
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

Imagine a romantic getaway in the Texas Hill Country

JJ, a cyber guru, whisks his girlfriend, Jo, away for a vacation. No paparazzi. Magnolia Bluff is the perfect destination. Flower B&B is prettier than the pictures on the website.

The evangelizing podcast creators are demanding answers about the town’s newest resident, Mateo Hernandez. The enormous wall he erected has convinced the ladies he’s hiding nefarious activities behind a dubious attorney. Local authorities don’t believe laws are broken and discount the women as meddling gossips.

When the couple checks into Flower, the podcast show-in-progress is interrupted by a cyberattack. JJ, the techno-geek, can’t resist helping. At each subsequent event in the series, he uncovers more serious issues than cyberwarfare.

JJ and Jo can’t avoid this roving series maelstrom. It gets personal when they’re attacked and warned to leave town. No one can conceive the depth of the crimes behind Mateo’s walls.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the authors, Breakfield & Burkey

Breakfield and BurkeyBreakfield is a technology expert in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. Charles is a fan of wine tastings, winemaking, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking.

Connect with  Breakfield

LinkedIn | Amazon

Burkey is an technology professional who excels at optimizing technology and business investments. She works with customers all over the world focusing on optimized customer experiences. Rox writes white papers and documentation, but found she has a marked preference for writing fiction.

Connect with Burkey:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Amazon

Together these Texas authors create award-winning stories that resonate with males and females, as well as young and experienced adults. They bring a fresh new view to technology possibilities today in exciting stories. Visit their website for more information and free stuff.

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The Enigma Series | Twitter | Facebook | Medium | Instagram


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Book Spotlight & Giveaway: A Shot in the 80% Dark, by Amber Royer

Banner: A Shot in the 80% Dark

 

About the book, A Shot in the 80% Dark

Cover A Shot in the 80 Percent Dark(Book 4 in the Bean to Bar series)

  • Cozy Mystery / Culinary Mystery /Woman Sleuth
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: July 15, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 285 pages
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Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop is thriving. Despite everything she’s been through with the murders she’s helped solve, Felicity is ready to take on new challenges. So when a local museum offers her a contract to create a chocolate replica of a gigantic sailing ship sculpture for a gala celebrating Galveston’s history, she jumps at the chance to combine chocolate-crafting with art.

The project is fun – right up until there’s not just one but two dead artists on the scene, and Felicity has to change gears back to detective. Logan, Felicity’s business partner and previous bodyguard, and Arlo, Felicity’s ex who is now the cop investigating the case, are split on which victim they think was actually the intended one. Felicity may have to take some chances, both emotionally and in luring out a killer, to determine the truth.

Can she find out how Galveston’s history relates to the murders, unmask a killer, and prepare 2,000 chocolate desserts for the gala all at the same time?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the Author, Amber Royer

Author Pic Amber Royer

Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.

Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.

Connect with Amber:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter   |  Amazon | Goodreads | Instagram | Youtube

 

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My Thoughts

MissMelissWhether it’s the yellow and green parrot repeating “Allez vous-en, allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!” in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, or Renoir the cockatoo’s rather dire warning, “If you do that, I’ll kill you,” in this fourth installment of Amber Royer’s Bean to Bar mysteries, A Shot in the 80% Dark, talking birds never bode well.

Indeed, within a relatively few pages of her receipt of a copy of Treasure Island, Felicity Koerber, professional chocolatier and amateur detective, has stumbled into another murder.

This book takes place in Galveston, Texas, a touristy island community that Felicity calls home, and that has a rich maritime tradition. (It’s also, I recently learned, one of the major ports immigrants came through in the early twentieth century. But that’s just a random fact.)

As with the other books, this can easily be read as a standalone novel, though reading the earlier books does lend context. The key elements are chocolate (of course), maritime history, pirate lore, the local art scene, and how they merge when Felicity agrees to design and create a chocolate copy of a found-materials pirate ship sculpture for an event at the art museum. Only Amber Royer could take these disparate threads and weave them into a cohesive whole, and she does so with her usual deftness.

Mainly character driven, this story has a love triangle with Felicity, her first love Arlo, and her partner Logan, the latter two of whom have become friends. As well, there is an entire cast of art gallery staffers and artists each with their individual personalities and interpersonal conflicts that mix and match to create conflict, suspicion, and delightful drama.

In A Shot in the 80% Dark, Amber Royer has created a snappy, interesting read that remains unpredictable to the end.

In fact, the only flaw in this novel is that it doesn’t come with a supply of organic chocolate to nibble while reading.

Goes well with: an iced mocha made with unsweetened espresso chocolate.


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Autographed copies of A SHOT IN THE 80% DARK

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Review and Giveaway: Pictures of the Shark, by Thomas H. McNeely

BNR Pictures of the Shark

 

About the book, Pictures of the Shark

  • Short Stories / Southern Fiction / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Texas Review Press
  • Date of Publication: July 12, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 205 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Pictures of the SharkA sudden snowfall in Houston reveals family secrets. A trip to Universal Studios to snap a picture of the shark from Jaws becomes a battle of wills between father and son. A midnight séance and the ghost of Janis Joplin conjure the mysteries of sex. A young boy’s pilgrimage to see Elvis Presley becomes a moment of transformation. A young woman discovers the responsibilities of talent and freedom.

Pictures of the Shark, by Houston native and Dobie Paisano award-winning author Thomas H. McNeely, traces a young man’s coming of age and falling apart. From the rough and tumble of Houston’s early seventies East End to the post-punk Texas bohemia of late eighties Austin, this novel in stories examines what happens when childhood trauma haunts adult lives.

PRAISE FOR PICTURES OF THE SHARK:

  •  “McNeely’s brilliant stories are filled with delicious menace and heartbreaking hope.” – Pamela Painter, author of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers and Fabrications: New and Selected Stories
  • “In these gorgeously crafted interlinked stories, Thomas McNeely demonstrates once again an uncanny ability to illuminate the darkest emotional corners of his characters with a vision that is as tender and compassionate as it is unflinching.” – Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs
  • “With masterful prose, McNeely draws you down into emotional depths where your ambivalence and confusion show you at your most profoundly human. These stories hook you quickly and deeply and keep you even after they end. – C.W. Smith, author of Steplings, Buffalo Nickel, and Understanding Women

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Thomas H. McNeely

Author Photo McNeelyThomas H. McNeely is an Eastside Houston native. He has published short stories and nonfiction in The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, Ploughshares, and many other magazines and anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories and Algonquin Books’ Best of the South. His stories have been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award anthologies. He has received National Endowment for the Arts, Wallace Stegner, and MacDowell Colony fellowships for his fiction. His first book, Ghost Horse, won the Gival Press Novel Award and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize in Writing. He currently teaches in the Stanford Online Writing Studio and at Emerson College, Boston.

Connect with Thomas:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER | AMAZON  | GOODREADS

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My Thoughts

MissMelissI love short stories. I mean, I love novels and biographies, but it takes a special kind of talent to tell a complete story in a relatively few words. In his eight-story collection, Pictures of the Shark, Thomas H. McNeely shows that he has a great amount of talent, and is using it wisely.

To be honest, he had me at the word “scraggly,” used to describe someone’s beard. I use that word, but most people I know (and most people I read) do not, so when I saw that word in the opening story, “Snow, Houston, 1974,” I knew that I would love the language this author uses, and I was not wrong. His stories are somber, even dark, but his prose rises from the page, and grabs you by the wrists demanding that you pay attention.

I found myself shivering when six year old Buddy Turner experiences his first snow in 1974. Having lived through two extreme winter storms in Texas (Dallas county, in my case, but still rare) I was hit in the gut with the description of the aftermath:

“Now, the weatherman reported gas fires and burst water mains and houses whose roofs had caved in. Some neighborhoods, he said, were without electricity or telephones. Buddy began to worry about Grandma Liddy. Grandma Liddy and he made plans to buy a cassette recorder with cigarette coupons, to write President Nixon and ask him why he lied, to build a miniature city out of matchboxes and toilet paper rolls. They had already started the city, chalking streets on the threadbare carpet in his mother’s old room.”

It’s simple language, matter of fact, and almost Hemingway-esque at times, but it’s effective.

In addition to McNeely’s use of language, I also appreciated his ability to find and convey the emotional tone of every piece. The early stories in Buddy’s life (though not necessarily in the book, as it jumps around in time a little) have threads of hope running through them. The stories where Buddy is older and disillusioned feel darker and have a bitter quality. The pieces where we see Buddy as a young man are laden with sadness and wasted possibilities. And yet, not a single story was dull or made me want to skim it. Rather, I was riveted. “Hester,” especially, had me fascinated because it’s really the only story where we have another perspective, and see Buddy through another person’s eyes.

Speaking of people, Buddy, his mother (Margot) and his father (Jimmy) are the central characters, and each one is interesting on their own. Buddy, of course, is the boy whose family is unhappy, and who seems to know too much and not enough, afraid of becoming his father, but also so close to doing so. Everything I learned about Margot made we wish for a collection from her perspective – her youth and young womanhood. Jimmy is a perfect tragic figure, and some of the scenes, where he seems about to resort to violence, but doesn’t, had me flashing back to my own memories of an abusive partner my mother once had.

In fact, the only reason I didn’t read all eight of these stories in one sitting was that the emotions were so vivid and plausible that I had to step away.

In the beginning of his book, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In Pictures of the Shark, Thomas H. McNeely has given us a visceral look at an extremely unhappy family, and shown us how that unhappiness echoes through all their lives. This is made most evident in the final entry in this collection, “Little Deaths:”

“I’d come to the University as a National Merit Scholar, but now lived off my mother’s credit card. I never visited my mother, because she reminded me both of my rotten childhood and my receding promise: my AP classes, my high school English honors, the expectation even by my family that I would become a writer.”

Buddy Turner may never have become a successful author (or maybe he did, that’s for another collection) but his creator, Thomas H. McNeely has given us a masterpiece in gray tones and grim feelings.

Goes well with: black coffee and anisette toast.


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2 winners: autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark
2 winners: autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark

+ editorial critique of an excerpt (up to 20 pages) from an unpublished short story or novel.
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Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Deadly Keepsakes, by Anita Dickason

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About the book, Deadly KeepsakesCover Deadly Keepsakes

  • A Tori Winters Mystery
  • Now available for Pre-order – Coming July 10th
  • Publisher: Mystic Circle Books
  • Number of Pages: 360 pages
  • Scroll down for giveaway

The past becomes the future. Secrets that can kill! 

After someone tries to kill her, Tori Winters is on the run. Looking for a place to hide, a mysterious phone call about a vague inheritance seems to be the answer. After all, who would think of looking for her in Granbury, a small quaint Texas town. Instead, her life is about to spin into an existence where nothing is as it seems. The historic house she inherits has secrets. Ones she’s been warned can kill. A stranger in a strange town, who can she trust? There is the kindly lawyer and his son, or the disinherited step-grandson. What secrets do they hide? Tori’s newfound fortune may not be a blessing. It could become her death warrant.

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About the author, Anita Dickason

Author Photo DickasonAward-winning Author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer, and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.

Anita writes about what she knows, cops and crime. Her police background provides an unending source of inspiration for her plots and characters. Many incidents and characters portrayed in her books are based on personal experience. For her, the characters are the fun part of writing as she never knows where they will take her. There is always something out of the ordinary in her stories.

In Anita’s debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, she created an elite FBI Unit, the Trackers. Since then, she has added three more Tracker crime thrillers, Going Gone!, A u 7 9, and Operation Navajo, which are not a series and can be read in any order, and Deadly Business, a crime thriller.

As a Texas author, many of Anita’s books are based in Texas, or there is a link to Texas. When she stepped outside of the Tracker novels and wrote, Not Dead, she selected Meridian, a small community in central Texas for the location.

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Review and Giveaway: The Stealing Time Series, by KJ Waters

Banner: Stealing Time Series

 

About the Stealing Time series

  1. Stealing Time

  2. Shattering Time

  3. Killing Time

  • Genre: Time Travel / Suspense / Romance / Alt History / Mystery
  • Publisher: Blondie Books
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Stealing Time, December 20, 2014, 319 pages

Cover 1 Stealing TimeA devastating hurricane. A time travel betrayal. Will Ronnie survive the witch hunt or forever be lost in time?

Stealing Time is the first book in the “breathtakingly original” Stealing Time Series of time travel wrapped in a hurricane. If you like strong-willed modern women and gripping stories that transport you back in time, then you’ll love KJ Water’s Books.

As Hurricane Charley churns a path of destruction towards Orlando, Florida, Ronnie Andrews scrambles to prepare for the storm and seeks shelter at her boyfriend’s weather lab. What she finds there is more terrifying than Mother Nature’s destruction.

During the peak of the hurricane, Ronnie is hurtled back in time to eighteenth-century London where she is caught in a web of superstition, deception, and lies in a life and death struggle to return to her own time.

Her best friend Steph is thrust into the middle of the hurricane, where it quickly turns into a living nightmare as she is faced with losing everything.

Buy, read, and discuss this book: Amazon | Goodreads

Shattering Time: June 27, 2017, 336 pages

Cover 2 Shattering TimeA hurricane the size of Texas. Another time travel betrayal. Will Ronnie figure out how to return home or die trying?

Shattering Time is the second book in the best-selling “Breathtakingly original” time travel series that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Ronnie Andrews returns from 18th-century London shell-shocked from her first terrifying time travel encounter. Her boyfriend, Jeffrey Brennan, casts doubt on her sanity leaving Ronnie wondering if she went back in time or is having a mental breakdown. To add to the tension, Hurricane Francis, a storm the size of Texas, is barreling towards Florida and her fears of a repeat time travel experience mount. Ronnie’s best friend Steph, along with her friend Nick and Steph’s younger brother Ian, shield Ronnie from the dangers of Francis but cannot save her from traveling back in time. Unfortunately, their meddling brings Ronnie to the brink of destruction as they are caught in the throes of the hurricane’s wrath.

Once again, Ronnie is transported to dangerous places and desperate situations, while experiencing perilous cultures including one of America’s first mysteries — the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. A stunning conclusion brings Ronnie face to face with a dangerous ally who may hold the key to her past while offering salvation for her future.

Buy, read, and discuss this book: Amazon | Goodreads

Killing Time: August 27, 2021, 437 pages

Cover 3 Killing TimeWhen the Strongest Hurricane in Decades Takes Aim at Florida, Ronnie Tries to Escape its Wrath. Will she Die in the Storm or Be Lost in Time Forever?

Ronnie Andrews is lucky to be alive after a time travel glitch nearly took her life during Hurricane Frances. When Hurricane Ivan, one of the strongest storms in decades, sets its sights on Florida, Ronnie jumps at the chance to join Mike, her mysterious new boss, on a business trip to Puerto Rico.

Sparks fly, but when a newspaper article surfaces with horrific pictures of a woman who may have died at Mike’s hands, Ronnie regrets the decision. Before she can confront Mike about what she knows, Hurricane Jeanne forms off the coast, trapping them on the island. Her doctors warned that another time-travel-induced illness may kill her. Mike may be her only salvation.

The storm strikes and Ronnie time travels to Texas in 1872 where she is taken by Comanches. A rescue party saves her life led by Jesse and Frank James, hiding under assumed names.

Will Ronnie find a way to make the time-traveling episodes stop before the dangers of the past, and the damage from the journey destroy her?

Buy, read, and discuss this book: Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, KJ Waters

Author Pic KJ WatersKJ Waters is the international best-selling author of Stealing Time, Shattering Time, and short story Blow. She is currently working on book four, Fracturing Time.

In addition to her writing, she runs KJ Waters Consultancy and is the co-host of the popular podcast Blondie and the Brit, and she provides author consulting services covering branding, social media, and publishing.

She has a master’s degree in business and over eighteen years of experience in the marketing field. Before quitting her job to raise a family and work on writing, she was the Director of Marketing and Communications for a national behavioral healthcare company.

Connect with KJ:

WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER ◆ TWITTER (Blondie&theBrit) ◆ AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS ◆ BOOKBUBINSTAGRAMBLOGPINTERESTKJW CONSULTING LINKEDINYOUTUBETIKTOK


Stealing Time Series

 

My Thoughts

This review spans all three books in the Stealing Time series.

MissMelissThere are some series where you can pick up any volume and the overall story will make sense. KJ Waters’ Stealing Time series is not one of them. Written for an audience clearly accustomed to binge-watching, this trilogy (so far) is a gripping story where each sequel expands the universe, adding characters and details.

Time travel, in general, is not a new concept in fiction, and these novels seem to be descendants of both Quantum Leap and Somewhere in Time, although in this case, there is no specific villain being tracked through history, but rather, the main character’s sense of self and self-worth. What is unique is the mechanism behind the time travel: the use of storms – specifically hurricanes – to generate power.

That main character is Veronica “Ronnie” Andrews, recently relocated to central Florida, partly to take a new job, but also to be near her fiancé, the brilliant but conniving Jeffrey, and her best friend Steph. All seems to be progressing in a typical love-story direction, when a hurricane hits the Orlando area on Ronnie’s birthday, and Jeffrey whisks her off to his weather lab, wines and dines her, and presents her with a gift, a replica (he claims) of a rose-gold watch Ronnie admired on a trip to London with Steph.

And then Ronnie travels to London, in 1752, just in time for the great time-shift which has nothing to do with moving through centuries, and everything to do with England finally joining the rest of the western world in using the Gregorian calendar (and subsequently eliminating eleven days of September from existence).

To be honest, there’s not that much time travel for a series centered upon the concept. In Stealing Time, it’s 1752 London, in Shattering Time, it’s the lost Roanoke colony, and in Killing Time, it’s the Old West, though in each of these trips, Ronnie is not quite in the place we know, but rather a similar parallel universe (the multi-verse theory is mentioned in the novels). In each time, Ronnie encounters people who help her, and people who wish her harm, and in each she must take drastic measures to return home.

Author KJ Waters has created, in this series, a group of compelling, if not always likeable, characters. Ronnie, at the heart, is a mixture of intelligence, intellectual curiosity, and low self-esteem. At times, I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. Jeffrey is a manipulator and a gaslighter, and it’s a credit to the author’s writing skills that my dislike of him is so visceral that I wanted to commit violence to his person.

Steph and her eventual partner Nick are good support characters, with development that grows throughout the series, but while they are integral to the main story, providing Ronnie with a support system, the subplot following their romance felt weak to me, and took time away from the main story. When Steph’s raunchy brother Ian joins the action in the latter two books and the b-team turns more toward detective work with smatterings of romance, the entire series becomes both more interesting and more cohesive.

Also important to the story, in books two and three (especially three) is Ronnie’s boss Mike, and the nearly instant connection they seem to have. Mike comes off a stock hero at first, but as his story unwinds, he becomes dimensional and interesting, and I’d happily read a novel focused entirely on him.

Overall, KJ Waters does three things very well in this series:

  • Pacing, which more than makes up for the few minor plot- and character inconsistencies (spellings of names, and chronology errors) – each book feels both complete and one act in a greater whole, and that balance is tricky to navigate.
  • Attention to Detail, including little details of historical accuracy like how people cleaned themselves after using the toilet, or what sorts of oral hygiene were practiced, as well as her obvious research into quantum physics and weather systems.
  • Description: I felt and heard every moment of each storm, saw each flash of lightning, experienced the confusion of stumbling around in the damp, dark after a power outage. Similarly, the depictions of each time period Ronnie visited were cinematic in the way they were described on the page.

There is one thing, though, that should be addressed. I am not a prudish reader. I like a well-written sex scene as much as anyone. Much of the sex in these novels, however, while depicted with a good sense of space and how anatomy fits into it, is not healthy or loving, but used to manipulate and abuse, and, in some cases, assault. It’s not gratuitous, as it shows who certain characters really are, and how they perceive the world, but sensitive readers should be warned. I found some of the scenes distasteful, but I also understood that they were meant to be.

The Stealing Time trilogy is a refreshing take on time travel and a compelling blend of science, fantasy, mystery, romance, and intrigue. The author has said that book four is due next year, and I cannot wait to see how this story continues.

Goes well with cold beer and a sandwich de mezcla (a Puerto Rican sandwich made with a spam/cheese dip spread and roasted red peppers).


GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

 FOUR WINNERS! 

Grand Prize: $25 Amazon Card & signed copies of three novels in a swag bag

Three Winners: eBooks of novella Blow
US only for print copies & swag bags; international winners: eBooks

Ends midnight, CDT, 6/10/2022

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5/31/22 Review Book 1 The Plain-Spoken Pen
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6/1/22 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
6/2/22 Excerpt Book 1 The Page Unbound
6/3/22 Review Books 2 The Book’s Delight
6/4/22 Review Book 2 Reading by Moonlight
6/5/22 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
6/6/22 Excerpt Book 3 It’s Not All Gravy
6/7/22 Review Book 3 Chapter Break Book Blog
6/8/22 Review Book 3 Forgotten Winds
6/9/22 Sneak Peek Book 4 StoreyBook Reviews

 

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Book Spotlight and Giveaway: It’s a Mad, Mad Murder by Cindy Vincent

BNR Mad, Mad Murder

 

About the book, It’s a Mad, Mad Murder

  • Series: Maddie Montgomery
  • Cozy Culinary Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths
  • Publisher: Whodunit Press
  • Date of Publication: November 15, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 303 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover Mad Mad Murder Things are a little too hot to handle for famous culinary-mystery author, Maddie Montgomery, in her normally quiet neighborhood set in the Houston suburb of Abbott Cove. Especially after her neighbor, Randall Rathburn, has a heart attack and rams his vintage car into a light pole. Though his death is ruled an accident, another of Maddie’s neighbors insists that Randall was murdered, and he implores her to investigate. But Maddie isn’t on board with the half-baked idea, not until she attends the over-the-top funeral where she develops some suspicions of her own. That’s when she decides to take the leap from crime writing to crime solving. After all, she doesn’t exactly want a killer running around her cul-de-sac . . .

But the murder of her neighbor isn’t the only mystery she’s got cooking. When her publisher goes belly-up and her agent happily dumps her in favor of younger, dystopian authors, Maddie boils over into a full-blown career crisis. And while she tries to simmer down, her new role as amateur sleuth only stirs the pot even more. Then from car chases to stakeouts, and from a neighbor who owns a suspicious amount of spy gadgetry to a widow who seems a little too merry, Maddie’s first case has her head spinning like the beaters on her handheld mixer. And soon Maddie finds that solving a crime in “real life” is a lot more difficult . . . and a lot more dangerous . . .

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Cindy Vincent

AuthorPhotoCindy copy_1Cindy Vincent is the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers, and the Tracy Truworth, Apprentice P.I., 1940s Homefront Mysteries. She is also the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines.  Cindy is a self-professed “Christmas-a-holic,” and she starts the planning for her ever-expanding, “extreme” Christmas lights display sometime in the early spring.

Connect with Cindy:

WEBSITE  ◆ BUCKLEY AND BOGEYFACEBOOK  ◆ AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS! 

1ST PRIZE:

Signed copy of It’s a Mad, Mad Murder, a sweetheart-neckline apron, a set of multicolored, Farberware measuring cups, and a set of stainless steel, oblong measuring spoons.
2ND & 3RD PRIZES:

Signed copies of It’s a Mad, Mad Murder and novella, Yes, Carol . . . It’s Christmas!, which features a heroine trying to get back home to Texas.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/26/2022)

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Review and Giveaway: Fatal Code by Natalie Walters

Fatal Code Blog Tour

 

About the book, Fatal Code

  • Series: The Snap Agency (Book 2)
  • Fiction / Christian / Suspense / Romance
  • Publisher: Revell
  • Date of Publication: May 1, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 320 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Fatal CodeIn 1964, a group of scientists called the Los Alamos Five came close to finishing a nuclear energy project for the United States government when they were abruptly disbanded. Now the granddaughter of one of those five scientists, aerospace engineer Elinor Mitchell, discovers that she has highly sensitive information on the project in her possession–and a target on her back.

SNAP agent and former Navy cryptologist Kekoa Young is tasked with monitoring Elinor. This is both convenient since she’s his neighbor in Washington, DC, and decidedly inconvenient because . . . well, he kind of likes her.

Natalie Walters sucks you into the global race for space domination in this perfectly paced second installment of her SNAP Agency romantic suspense series.

Praise for this book:

Fatal Code is reminiscent of cold war spy thrillers and riveted me to the page as I rooted for Kekoa and Elinor to expose secrets, survive danger, and fall in love.” — Elizabeth Goddard, bestselling author of the Rocky Mountain Courage series

“Warning: once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down!” — Andrew Huff, author of the Shepherd Suspense series

“Enough suspense to make you need warm milk and a cozy blanket to calm you down.” — Jaime Jo Wright, author of The Souls of Lost Lake and the Christy award-winning novel The House on Foster Hill

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBaker Book House | Christianbooks.com | Barnes and Noble|Other Revell Affiliates | Goodreads


Author Pic WaltersAbout the author, Natalie Walters

Natalie Walters is the author of Lights Out, as well as the Harbored Secrets series. A military wife, she currently resides in Texas with her soldier husband and is the proud mom of three. She loves traveling, spending time with her family, and connecting with readers.

Connect with Natalie:

WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER  ◆ AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS ◆ BOOKBUB ◆ INSTAGRAMPINTEREST


My Thoughts

MissMelissLeaping into a series at book two is always a little bit risky. There’s the worry about whether or not the characters and situations will make sense without the back story of the first book.

Well, readers who are leaping into the world of The Snap Agency with Natalie Walker’s second book in the series, Fatal Code, need not worry. All the necessary information comes out in this well-paced story that combines the suspense of the race for aerospace dominance with enough romance to keep things interesting and a really witty overall voice.

Not that this is a comedy. It’s not. But Natalie Walters wonderfully captures the gentle humor of every-day situations. An example of this is when the vibrant and dimensional lead character Kekoa Young muses that he’s just finished a deadly-dangerous assignment but is dreading speaking to his father on the phone.

XTRA Praise 1

His concern over the fact that he’s got to “babysit” his neighbor Elinor, whom he is attracted to is also very plausible. It’s this human factor that makes Fatal Code so enjoyable.

In fact, it’s the byplay between the characters that really grabbed me. The scenes where Kekoa and his colleagues are bantering about food choices while also going over mission notes is the perfect depiction of workplace relationships, and really sold me on the whole premise.

I’m a sucker for anything to do with aerospace, and I love character-driven stories. This novel checked both of those boxes. I also enjoyed the audiobook version, which I’ve been listening to all week (the narrator is great, and has a little bit of an Asian lilt in her voice that really sells the Kekoa’s Hawaiian origin.) because the story is just delightful.

Intriguing, entertaining, romantic, and suspenseful, Natalie Walters’ second The Snap Agency novel, Fatal Code has it all.

Goes well with: A hamburger with eggs and gravy.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS! 

Each receive copies of Lights Out and Fatal Code!
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/20/2022)

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5/10/22 BONUS Series Spotlight Hall Ways Blog
5/10/22 Review Jennifer Silverwood
5/11/22 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/11/22 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
5/12/22 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
5/13/22 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
5/14/22 Deleted Scene 1 All the Ups and Downs
5/15/22 Deleted Scene 2 KayBee’s Book Shelf
5/16/22 Author Interview The Page Unbound
5/17/22 Review Shelf Life Blog
5/18/22 Top 9 List Boys’ Mom Reads
5/19/22 Review Bibliotica

 

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Spotlight and Giveaway: Turn To Me, by Becky Wade

BNR Turn to Me

 

About the book, Turn to Me (a Misty River romance)

  • Series: A Misty River Romance
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
  • Date of Publication: May 3, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 416 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Turn to MeHis promise will cost him far more than he imagined. 

Guilt has defined Luke Dempsey’s life, but it was self-destructiveness that landed him in prison. When his friend and fellow inmate lay dying shortly before Luke’s release, the older man revealed he left a string of clues for his daughter, Finley, that will lead her to the treasure he’s hidden. Worried that she won’t be the only one pursuing the treasure, he gains Luke’s promise to protect her until the end of her search.

Spunky and idealistic, Finley Sutherland is the owner of an animal rescue center and a defender of lost causes. She accepts Luke’s help on the treasure hunt while secretly planning to help him in return–by coaxing him to embrace the forgiveness he’s long denied himself.

As they draw closer to the final clue, their reasons for resisting each other begin to crumble, and Luke realizes his promise will push him to the limit in more ways than one. He’ll do his best to shield Finley from unseen threats, but who’s going to shield him from losing his heart?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBaker Book House | BookBub | Goodreads


About the author, Becky Wade

Author Photo Wade © Emilie Hendryx of E.A. Creative PhotographyBecky Wade is the 2018 Christy Award Book of the Year winner for True to You. She is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and moved to Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market, then put her career on hold for several years to care for her children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. Her humorous, heart-pounding contemporary romance novels have won three Christy Awards, the Carol Award, the INSPY Award, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award for Romance. Becky lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three children.

Connect with Becky

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  | BECKY’S CHEER SQUAD  | TWITTER  |  AMAZON  |  GOODREADS  | BOOKBUB | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST

Connect with Bethany House Publishers

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | TIKTOK | GOODREADS


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 TWO WINNERS! 

AUTOGRAPHED COPIES OF TURN TO ME!
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/12/2022)

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Review and Giveaway: Comfort Zone, by Kimberly Fish

BNR Comfort Zone

 

About the book Comfort Zone

  • Genre: Contemporary / Second Chance Romance / Women’s Fiction
  • Publisher: Fish Tales Publishing
  • Date of Publication: November 1, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 289 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Comfort ZoneThe award-winning author of Comfort Songs, Comfort Plans, and Comfort Foods digs into the life of single-mom Anna Weber, an appraiser who gives value to other people’s found treasures. On assignment to research a handwritten sheet of music, Anna helps a stranded motorist, only to discover she’s rescued retired NFL quarterback Jack Moses. His confidence and fascination for solving problems makes him impossible for Anna to ignore even as they both dart along separate deadlines to save the finances at an inner-city school. Little does Anna know that as she wrestles with secrets from her past and a suspicious approach to people, Jack is running too—dodging women, pro athletes, and a future with no definable end zone.

As a nemesis threatens Anna’s young daughters, these two unlikely partners discover that it’s in stepping back from years of self-sufficiency that Anna and Jack can find the best treasure of all: a series of sweet, second chances.

Praise and Awards for this book:

“Kimberly Fish’s Comfort books are wonderful, charming stories set in the Texas Hill Country. Fans of small towns family relationships will enjoy these feel-good books. Two thumbs up!” – Jan Moran, USA Today bestselling author of Seabreeze Inn. 

Comfort Zone is a Literary Titan Gold Award winner and a Reader Views Bronze Award winner in romance. It was also a runner-up in the regional fiction category of the New England Book Festival awards.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Kimberly Fish

Author Photo FishKimberly Fish has been a professional writer in marketing and media for over thirty years, with regular contributions to area newspapers and magazines. As an accidental historian, she wrote two novels, The Big Inch and Harmon General, both based on factual events  in Longview, Texas that changed world history. Kimberly also offers a set of contemporary women’s fiction, based in the Texas Hill Country, that reveal her fascination with characters discovering their grit and sweet, second chances; all four of these novels have won distinguished awards

Connect with Kimberly:

Website | Facebook  |  Twitter I  Amazon  |  Goodreads | YouTube | Instagram | Pinterest | BookBub


XTRA Comfort Zone series graphic

My Thoughts

MissMelissOpening a new Kimberly Fish novel – especially a Comfort Stories novel – is more than just the beginning of a good read. It’s a road trip back to the fictional home town we all wish we were from. It is, as described in this latest installment, Comfort Zone, “a town of free-thinkers,” full of entrepreneurial spirit, a love of art and nature, and kind hearts.

In this visit to Comfort, TX, we meet Anna, an appraiser of relics and treasures, and Jack, a retired NFL football player. It would be easy to predict that a gift to the local school brings them together and things progress from there, but that would be a gross simplification of this story,  which is more than a second-chance romance, but a nuanced character study of two people who have been banged about a bit by life and circumstance.

I really loved getting to know Jack and Anna (and her two daughters). Anna’s job, especially, fascinated me. Part detective, part storyteller… I’d love to spend an hour or two just hearing the tales she might tell. All four of these new characters were as real and dimensional, with plausible flaws and anxieties, as anyone you might meet at a local coffee shop (or taco truck, or lavender farm), and I especially appreciated the way Anna observed her friend Lacy’s romance with local celebrity chef Rudy, which relationship was the focus of the previous entry into the Comfort Stories collection, Comfort Foods.

My favorite character, however, has got to be Comfort itself. It’s a slightly idealized small town, and it’s not difficult to imagine the various women (and men) in Anna’s friend-circle getting together to share their overlapping lives and businesses. Comfort is one of those places you just know has wide sidewalks, friendly dogs, excellent coffee, a decent bookstore, and real mail in the mailboxes.

If you enjoy romances between working adults, stories where there’s enough mystery to keep the plot going without being a whodunnit – mysteries of discovery and self-discovery – and a cup or two of cozy life, then the Comfort series as a whole, and this novel, Comfort Zone, specifically, will satisfy your heart and mind. More than that, you’ll feel like you’ve visited the hometown you were never actually born in.

Goes well with: a farmhouse breakfast – dark roast coffee, toast, eggs, and bacon.


Giveaway

 ONE WINNER!

Autographed copy of Comfort Zone,
hand-painted note card from artist Elaine McMillan,
and NFL official Silver Series football signed by Jack Moses.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/29/2022)

 

Giveaway Comfort Zone

 

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4/19/22 Review Jennie Reads
4/19/22 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
4/20/22 Review Bibliotica
4/20/22 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
4/21/22 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
4/22/22 Review StoreyBook Reviews
4/23/22 Review Reading by Moonlight
4/24/22 Review Rox Burkey Blog
4/25/22 Review Book Fidelity
4/25/22 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs
4/26/22 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
4/27/22 Review It’s Not All Gravy
4/28/22 Review Forgotten Winds

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