Readers' Favorite

September 17, 2016

Review: Jack-in-the-Box by William W. Johnstone

by MK French

Nora Baxter is the younger of two children in the Baxter family. She is blonde and perfectly pretty, like a doll, and her mother dotes on her to distraction. Her father isn't fooled by this kind of behavior, especially when her lies seem to cause a rift between her parents. Her father sees a macabre jack-in-the-box at an antique shop and buys it on impulse, gifting it to Nora. From there, her behavior worsens and he starts looking into ways of correcting it. That has him collecting a number of allies to fight against the demonic energies possessing her and fueling her, and finding out about a number of family secrets.

Some of the symbolism in the beginning of the book is fairly heavy handed. Nora is born on January 6, and the book takes place when she is eleven; there's a sense of urgency because she has to be stopped before her twelfth birthday, as it will be the confluence of six-six-six. There were also other deaths, always taking place on the sixth, odd nightmares and a sense of foreboding. She has a birthmark that was a circle at first, then gradually developed into a six as she grew older. So much is made of these facts in the early chapters, and then the details are ultimately abandoned and not mentioned again. The titular jack-in-the-box is alternately possessed or a link to a possessing force, I can't tell which it should really be. That could be because the characters don't know for certain, and the emphasis seems to change over time. The demon explanation in the beginning of the book soon gives way to the discussion of Nazi influences and the sadistic experiments and torture that was done in the name of gathering power. Some of the violence and language in the book is horrible, especially if you consider it coming out of the mouth of an angelic looking little girl. It's a disturbing horror novel, and it has the classic ending that hints at the potential for more violence and horror to come.

I'm not sure if I like the book, to be honest. It's written well, even with the shifting focus as to the source of the horror. The hero of the story changes between the parts, and they are easily the most likable characters. You're not meant to like Nora, of course, but I also found it difficult to like a lot of the other characters as well. The rapid changes in characters' behavior are explained as demonic influences, but it also left me feeling not as connected to them. A number of sequences are haunting and creepy, and that's certainly the point in a horror novel. Read this one with the lights on and people you trust in the house. Just in case.

Buy Jack-in-the-Box at Amazon

MK French, reviewer. Born and raised in New York City, M.K. started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Book info:
available formats:ebook & print (368 pages)
published: September 2016 by Lyrical Underground
genres: horror, paranormal

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September 16, 2016

Featured Book: The Black Lens by Christopher Stollar

cover of The Black Lens
Zoey James has pimp trouble. And even though he doesn't know it, her pimp has Zoey trouble. Big Zoey trouble. In a dark world of meth addiction, trailer parks and abuse, Zoey has seen it all. But when she and her disabled sister are forced into a small-town sex ring, the teenage girls find out just how brutal the world can be. And when someone kills her mother as retaliation for a failed escape attempt, Zoey decides to fight back. Teaming up with a photojournalist, Zoey exposes wealthy and powerful men who play in the dirty, back-alley world of modern slavery. The price for her cooperation is freedom. The cost of failure is her life.

A hard hitting theme in a gritty, well told tale ~ Misfits farm

gripping, shocking and excellently written novel ~ Barbara Tsipouras

What a powerful book ~ Nickisbooks

Start reading:

Buy The Black Lens at Amazon

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Getting to Know Your Characters

by Byddi Lee

character development

Engaging characters are the most important element of any story. If you don’t know your characters inside out it will come across in your writing. The reader will find your characters, at best, confusing, and worse, boring. So it is worth taking the time to think about the people in your story. How much you sketch out a character depends on the hierarchy of that character in the story, with your protagonist (i.e main character) and antagonist being the most detailed, less development is needed for the supporting characters, with filler characters, who pop up only once, having only the merest, most relevant details.

In all cases, you’ll begin by describing them physically. Keep a record of this. I find a spreadsheet helpful, especially for small details of features that everyone has such as eye, hair and skin color, hair style, height and stature, date of birth. When you set up a spreadsheet leave plenty of room to extend it so that you can add notes about personality and relationships as you further develop each person in your story.

Nowadays there are a plethora of free resources online for character development. Download a few checklists to get the questions tumbling in your head. Once they begin to rattle around, you can go about your day and let the answers ferment themselves into fruition.

Get to Know Your Characters

Begin finding out who they are and what makes them tick the same way as you would when meeting anyone for the first time. What questions would you ask a new acquaintance? Name, age, where do they live, what do they work at, what are their hobbies?

Then consider what information you would want to glean from a person if you were on a first date. This may be the kind of information that you can’t just “ask” your character/date, such as their politics, or views on religion, how they treat the elderly/children/animals – the general attitude of your character. This is usually derived from the character's background. Create one that will impact the way they behave and that demonstrates how they developed their world view so it makes sense. For example, someone brought up in poverty may grow up to abhor wastefulness; they may value money and be afraid to spend it even if they have lots of it, whereas a character who grew up with great wealth may throw money away on frivolous things and have little respect for its value.

Create Their Backstory

Build a history behind the characters. You may need to begin at birth, conception, or even with the parents before that. A lot of this background will not make it into the print of your story, but if you have done a good job creating a true and interesting character this groundwork will be present in the subtext of your story. This history can account for that scar the heroine has on her leg that means she is too self-conscious to ever wear shorts or a swimsuit. Perhaps it is an emotional scar that prevents the hero from committing to the woman he loves because his mother abandoned him as a young child. So long as you can justify it, your only limitation is your imagination!

Without knowing where your character came from, it is impossible to know where that character is aiming to go. What are his goals? How difficult will it be to achieve them? Without this information, a reader is unable to cheer when the heroine prevails. The more the reader emotionally invests in the character, the more the reader enjoys it. Always remember the reader is your customer, the end user and the person you have to please! That may be a controversial sentiment amongst the “writing for art’s sake” writers, but I’m firmly in the “writer that aims to entertain” camp.

So before we can explore where the characters are going, and knowing where they came from, we can focus on the nuts and bolts of where the characters are right now.

Fill in the Details

Keep your main characters interesting with a unique or quirky trait, maybe have them wear an unusual item of clothing, for example, color coordinated braces and a dicky-bow tie. My father always wore ankle boots. I have a male friend who always wears acid-bright colored socks and my husband will wear any color of clothing - so long as it is black! Be a people-watcher and you’ll pick up great tips.

Perhaps your protagonist or your antagonist is obsessed with something, for example, butterflies, mermaids, or a country and culture – like Ireland! Give them a pet hate, or a phobia – when it comes to making your characters suffer (and you must make them suffer a lot) you will be very glad of these.

What motivates your character? Love, greed, compassion, loyalty, and how do these play into what moves your story along? How does your heroine approach her obstacles? With fear, anger, humor, curiosity? Even if your story is plot driven, the actions of the characters must be true to how you’ve painted them. A timid girl is not doing to beat up the bad guys in the first round – she might do so after a few rounds of hard life lessons, but her transition is what will captive your reader.

Think about how your characters will interact with the people in their lives. What are their relationships with others like? Are they warm and chatty? Are they reserved and shy? Do they have an accent? Are they funny, sarcastic, grumpy, mean? Do they think one thing but say another? You can have a lot of funny contrasting inner dialogue with what is actually said.

Well-Rounded Characters are Best

Try to make your characters as rounded out as possible. Sure, we need to love your hero, but give him a “forgivable” flaw. No-one is perfect. He’s over-protective, he likes to be in control or maybe he never apologizes for anything. This will come into play when you hit the climax and your character needs to change.

Likewise, work on making your villains sympathetic on some level. Somehow in the background of this vile person, she was once a good human being who experienced something so terrible it changed them into a monster. Even Darth Vader was lovable once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away!

Byddi Lee, features writer. Byddi grew up in Armagh, Ireland, and moved to Belfast to study Biology at Queen’s University when she was 18. She made Belfast her home for twenty-one years, teaching science and writing for pleasure. In 2002 she took a sabbatical from teaching and traveled around the world for two years, writing blogs about her adventures as she went. She returned to Ireland in 2004 and resumed teaching. In 2008 she and her husband moved to San Jose, California where she made writing a full-time career. After the publication of her short story, Death of a Seannachai, she decided it was time to write, March to November. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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September 15, 2016

Call for Submissions: Halloween Flash Fiction

Girl Who Reads is looking for your Halloween flash fiction stories to feature during October as a lead up to Halloween. Flash fiction is a fun way to share your creative writing. All writers are invited to participate whether this is your first piece of writing or you are a best-selling author.

Deadline for submissions is Saturday, September 24 and may be emailed to donna (at) You will be notified if your story is accepted for publication and any editorial corrections needed by Wednesday, September 28.

Original stories of 100 to 500 words will be consider. Any genre is accepted as long as it includes the thematic elements requested in this call. For example, a romantic comedy set at a Halloween party would meet the thematic requirement. It can also be the more traditional Halloween story featuring monsters and things that go bump in the night.

Along with your Flash Fiction piece, please include a short bio, photo (if you use one), and any social media links.

We had a number of great stories submitted last year and we look forward to reading your story.

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How to Be Politically Correct

by Susan Roberts

cover of TRUMPED
"Politically correct" is a bit of a misnomer—it isn't about being right, it's about being respectful and considerate. Being politically correct means that you avoid expressions and actions that may exclude, marginalize, or offend a particular group of people. The term first became popular during the 1970s and 1980s.  Political correctness has an important purpose: it promotes equality by demonstrating an understanding that all people and groups are valuable to society regardless of race, culture, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.  Some people today feel that political correctness in language not only destroys meaning but also demeans the people who are meant to be protected.  What is your opinion?

NOTE:  This book is NOT about Donald Trump - instead it refers to a trump card a valuable resource that may be used, especially as a surprise, in order to gain an advantage.

TRUMPED! is full of examples of things that people wish they could say in situations instead of being politically correct and saying things that they don't really mean.  It is divided up by Marriage, Dating, Advice, Strategies, Socializing, Business, Body & Mind and Philosophical. Here is an example of being politically correct from this book

COMMENCEMENT The high school graduation ceremony had just ended and the recent graduates were mingling in the foyer outside the gym where the ceremony took place...These were the best years of our lives - nothing will ever come close said one graduate through his tears.  BEING POLITICAL CORRECT:  These were wonderful years where we learned about the world and about ourselves and made lifelong friends that we will never forget.  BEING BRUTALLY HONEST:  If these were the best years of our lives, we're in serious trouble.

I found the book very humorous to read, even though I know that I am too kind to use most of these remarks.  As the author says at the end of the book - the only people who are truthful 100% of the time are children, drunks, and idiots.  So even though the book was laugh out loud funny with some of the advice, it is about comments that we often think but are afraid to say out loud.  My advice is to read TRUMPED for some good laughs.

cover of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories
I didn't read Politically Correct Bedtime Stories but if you are looking for more political correct humor this one looks good. here is the description from Amazon:

In a collection guaranteed to provoke both laughter and thought, 14 timeless fairy tales are revisited and reworked to become relevant fables for more modern times. These hilarious adaptations satirize and sanitize the sexist, racist, nationalist, ageist, sizeist, ethnocentrist  biases of classic bedtime stories. Familiar exploits of beloved characters are related from a respectful, prejudice-free perspective: the Emperor is no longer naked in his new clothes but “is endorsing a clothing-optional lifestyle,” Snow White escapes to the cottage of “seven vertically-challenged men,” and Goldilocks is an ambitious scientist studying anthropomorphic bears. With a redesigned jacket and a previously unpublished story, this expanded edition is sure to appeal to readers of multiple generations who find political correctness is as topical as ever.

Buy TRUMPED! at Amazon

Susan Roberts, reviewer. Susan lives in NC when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband love to travel, garden and help take care of their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

Book info for TRUMPED!
available formats: ebook and print (116 pages)
published: April 2016 by Sweet Memories Publishing
ISBN13: 9780976271840
genres: humor
a free ebook was provided by the publisher for this review

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September 14, 2016

Featured Book: Constant Guests by Patricia Nedelea

cover of Constant Guests
She was looking for her mother's secret. Instead, she found the world's greatest secret.

How would you feel if you found out one day that your mother wasn't your mother and nobody had a clue who your father might be? This is what happens to Isa, a cynical party girl from Paris whose life is abruptly changed. When Mara, her real mother dies in front of her eyes without saying a word, Isa wants to find out what Mara was searching for in 1991, before she went into a coma. But Isa soon discovers that she is not the only one searching for answers, and that her life is in danger. What is the secret that people are prepared to kill for? As Isa is drawn into a dark labyrinth of mysteries, she uncovers four lost-and-found stories related to a tarot deck from 1389. Four stories have to be told, twenty-four tarot cards have to be united and one great secret has to be revealed.

This book is a hybrid adventure novel, swinging across Europe between history, mystery and fantasy. Not only that, you will gain historical knowledge about tarot and see the first tarot deck ever: the book includes images of the twenty-four cards. It will leave you amazed at the possibilities it unfurls, intrigued by the history of the tarot and staggered at revelations you might develop a taste for.

An extraordinary story ~ Jim Lion

Reminiscent of The DaVinci Code ~ Marta Cheng

Imaginative plot twists ~ Meanwhile, Melinda

Start reading:

Buy Constant Guests at Amazon

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Autumn Reading: Three Addictive Series #fallreading #bookseries

By Alison DeLuca

autumn leaves

I love to read, but I hate coming to the end of a great book. Enter the book series, a concept that, when well done, is a reader’s addictive delight.

A great series offers a buffet of interconnected novels. Along the way, a good author will present vivid action and multi-faceted characters. 

If the writer is seriously on top of her game, each book in the series is a complete and satisfying story. At the same time, the series develops an overall adventure that concludes in the final book.

The Infernal Devices Series - Steampunk and Romance
Victorian drawing room
image courtesy of pixabay

Last fall I got sucked into the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. If you liked The Mortal Instruments books, the Infernal Devices offer more of the same.

When I first saw the titles: The Clockwork Angel, The Clockwork Prince and The Clockwork Princess, I knew I had to read the books. I’m a steampunk fan, and Clare’s stories offer fantastical Victoriana with great gadgets and gorgeous guys.

In The Clockwork Angel, Tessa Gray arrives from New York to meet her brother in London. Instead, she’s kidnapped by the Dark Sisters into a strange society, where Tessa learns she holds some very strange powers of her own.

covers of The Infernal Devices books

Tessa escapes with the help of Will and joins the Pandemonium Club. This is a group of Shadowhunters, a familiar name to anyone who read Clare’s other books. With Will and his friend Jem, Tessa confronts the terrifying clockwork creatures known as The Infernal Devices.

I loved Charlotte, the beautiful lady’s maid with a hideous scar on one cheek. I also loved Jem, who is addicted to a drug since he was a child and now depends on it to stay alive. The relationships between Jem, Tessa, and Will – as well as Charlotte – will be familiar to readers of The Mortal Instruments series.

The first book concludes with several questions answered and a few left open for the next in the series, The Clockwork Prince. This might be my favorite of the series, as Jem (my favorite) starts to win Tessa’s love. Will, at the same time, can’t tell Tessa about his feelings due to (SPOILER ALERT!) Will’s childhood arrogance, resulting in an encounter with a demon.

The final book, The Clockwork Princess, is exciting and satisfying – although the language becomes a bit high-blown as the characters become impossibly noble. One thing I love about Clare’s books is the usual snarky tone of the hero, and Will is no different. He’s a lot like Jace, as several reviewers have pointed out.

That sarcasm gets lost in the twisting plot. In fact, The Clockwork Princess starts with a father who turns into a huge, murderous worm.

I’m not kidding.

Still, you’d hardly be reading this series if you’re someone who insists on realism. Besides, the London setting, followed by some intense scenes in Wales, is perfect for longer nights and cooling weather.

Each writer, like each season, has her strengths. Cassandra Clare is fantastic at breathless teen romance, adolescent snark, and a hidden layer of society that exists underneath the real world order.

I held off reading The Infernal Devices for a while, but once I finally settled down to the trilogy, it swept me away. It’s the perfect companion for black cats, hot chocolate, and October nights.

The 5th Wave - Aliens and Angst
image courtesy of pixabay

I'm all about alien invasions in my books, and I love angst almost as much as I love fall and hot chocolate.

But first, an observation: the movie for City of Bones wasn't very … good. 

I wanted to like it. Lily Collins is gorgeous, and Jamie Campbell Bower has the right type of in-your-face good looks for Jace’s sarcasm.

Somewhere, something went seriously awry in bringing the book to the silver screen. FAIL!

Apparently the same thing happened with The 5th Wave. The preview looked amazing, but it has a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Too bad, because the book is incredibly exciting. Rick Yancey’s writing is stark and lovely: 
“Sometimes in my tent, late at night, I think I can hear the stars scraping against the sky.”

Cassie Sullivan is alone, a final survivor of four waves of alien attack that have included power shut-downs and plague. Her parents are dead, killed by a military commander who also took Cassie’s brother Sam.

It’s her mission to get him back.

The book also centers on Ben Parish, who was Cassie’s crush in school. He survives the plague and is conscripted by the same agency that took Sam. They are forced to fight aliens, or what Vosch says are aliens.

Vosch – Commander Vosch. See where this is going?

The loosely connected stories of Ben and Cassie develop separately, with a third and more mysterious figure called Evan, who saves Cassie.

As in The Infernal Devices, there is lots of sweaty, terrified action. The characters are stark in their survival against all odds – and there are three of these books!

If steampunk doesn’t do it for you but you still want some romance with your action, The 5th Wave series is a great choice for your fall nights. Don’t start reading too close to bed, though – you won’t want to stop.  Take it from me, it’s hard to get up the next morning when you stay up until midnight to read “just one more chapter” about Cassie, Ben, and Evan.

Otherland - Internets and Imagination
image courtesy of stocksnap

If you need even more books to get you through to winter, you can’t do better than the Otherland series by Tad Williams, because – Tad Williams.

The master of hard-core sci fi with a heart, Williams delivers brilliant characters and scene after imaginative scene that made me wonder, “What planet was this guy born on?”

His characters, however, let you know Tad is an Earthling, and a very talented one. City of Golden Shadow, the first of the Otherland books, starts with Paul Jonas. He’s a soldier in WWI who falls into an alternate reality along with a beautiful bird-woman.

Oh, we’re just getting started.

The story shifts to the 21st century and a society ruled by Virtual Reality. Around the globe, children are falling into comas during virtual gaming, a disease called Tandagore Syndrome.

Renie Sulaweyo, a Virtual Engineering instructor in Durban, is devastated when her brother succumbs to Tandagore Syndrome. Along with her student, !Xabbu, she digs into the sinister and strange happenings within the Net.

Much of the action happens in virtual reality, which leads to some amazing adventures in lands loosely based on children’s books. You’ll recognize The Wizard of Oz, the Trojan War, and a terrifying version of Peter Pan.

Williams’ imagination took my breath away in this series. The story is boldly original, the characters compelling, the scenes vivid. However, each page delivers a new facet of Williams’ talent. The chapters start with news items, showcasing how crazy real-world society has become. Each of those snippets could become a novel.

Not only that, minor characters spring to life. They aren’t just cardboard props to poke the action along. One of my favorites was a little girl made out of clay, who travels with Renie in the final book, Sea of Silver Light.

Did I mention each installment in the series is hundreds of pages long?

With Otherland, you’ll have plenty of reading for those evenings when it’s raining, windy, and you just don’t want to go out. Light a fire, make some tea, and dive into Williams’ magical, frightening world.

Have a wonderful autumn. And if you have a moment, tell me what great series you have discovered.

at Amazon

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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September 13, 2016

"Lyrically written" - The Man I love by Suanne Laqueur

Erik "Fish" Fiskare loves the theatre, but he’s more intrigued by the wizardry behind the red curtain than the spectacle center stage. That is until Daisy Bianco steps into the spotlight. The moment Erik lays eyes on this ballerina, his atoms rearrange and the young stagehand will never be the same.

cover of The Man I LoveFor two years, the romance thrives within a tight-knit circle of artists and friends. Then, a newcomer arrives—James, a brilliant but erratic dancer with a misguided infatuation and a burning desire to belong. Rejection sets James on a course for destruction and when the smoke clears, Erik’s world is torn apart. He soon discovers that in the face of heartache, grief and betrayal, love is not always enough to make you stay. And sometimes, it’s the only thing that can bring you back.

Spanning fifteen years and following a man's thrilling emotional journey back to the truth of himself, this award-winning novel has gripped readers and placed Laqueur as one of the most exciting debut authors of 2015. The Man I Love is an epic tale of love and forgiveness that will linger long after the last page is turned.

Emotionally intense and mesmerizing ~ Malka A.

Stunning, shocking, heartbreaking, harrowing, profound, powerful ~ Feeding My Addiction Book Reviews

Storytelling at its finest ~ Carrie J

Start reading:

Buy The Man I Love at Amazon

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Review of Johnny Worthen's David (Unseen Trilogy #3)

by Elisa Hordon

For fans of the Unseen trilogy by Johnny Worthen, David is the final installment you have been waiting to read.

David (unseen Book #3), Johnny Worthen
I did read Eleanor and Celeste before diving into David and I am glad I was able to read all three books at once. I would have been completely frustrated if I had to wait to find out everything.

The trilogy as a whole was a great YA mystery thriller with a supernatural twist and a good dose of teen drama.

Eleanor is a skin walker / shapeshifter. She tries to live her life unseen by others but people gravitate to her. Eleanor is a remarkable girl wanting to be unremarkable. It is hard to be unremarkable in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. Bullying and prejudiced is a way of life and you have to do anything and everything to survive.

David is the guy who has stood by her. Will they finally get to be together or will Eleanor finally push David away forever?

Eleanor is a born survivor. It is what she does survive because it is what she knows. In the aftermath of Celeste (book #2), Eleanor tries to stay unseen, but that won't work forever. Can Eleanor come out of her skin and live the life she has always wanted? Can she be a hero to the town that has always had mixed feelings about her? Can Eleanor let herself trust those closest to her? It was interesting how Eleanor put her shapeshifting to use in this book. She hides in plain sight and helps right wrongs that happened in the previous two books. I really enjoyed this final installment.

To sum up, the Unseen Trilogy was just brilliant. My uncertainty after getting through book #1 was all because it was a trilogy and I  wanted all the info in the first book. It just shows my impatience as this trilogy was different, captivating, and mind blowing. It did take me until book #3 to appreciate it as the great trilogy it is. Even my teenage daughter raved about these books from the first chapter. I started to wonder if it was just me. I wanted to read all three books before commenting at all. When I'm reading a book for review I always keep notes and you would laugh if you read my notes on Eleanor. They are quite negative. It was out of frustration that I had two more books to read before understanding her completely. I felt frustrated but in a good way, I guess that's the mark of a good series if it leaves you wanting more.

Eleanor is something else. She thinks she is a monster. I think she is just confused and not comfortable in her own skin. That makes sense when it is not actually her own skin.

I love the bond between David and Eleanor. I am hoping it stands the test of time but I do wonder how David will react when he finds out what Eleanor is. Can he handle it? Only time will tell.

Buy David at Amazon

Elisa Hordon, reviewer. Elisa lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW, Australia where she spends her days reading, journaling, painting, cooking and homeschooling her daughter. She has always been an avid reader, Elisa loves reading many genres of books except horror; her favourite genres would be mystery, romance, and paranormal. Elisa also loves pursuing many creative outlets if she is not relaxing with a book she can be found writing, sketching, painting or cooking. Elisa loves to share her obsession with books especially with her family and friends. Reading and reviewing books is a favourite pastime of Elisa’s.

review of David
Book info:
available formats: print (340 pages)
published: August 16, 2016 by Jolly Fish Press
ISBN13: 9781631630620
target audience: young adult
genres: mystery, thriller
a free ebook was provided by the publisher for this review

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September 12, 2016

Featured Book: The Enigmatologist by Ben Adams

cover of The Enigmatologist
Twenty-something, John Abernathy is disillusioned. His job as a private investigator is unfulfilling, and he can’t find work in his chosen field, Enigmatology, the study and design of puzzles. He is about to quit when the National Enquirer calls. A woman in Las Vegas, New Mexico sent them a photo of someone who’s supposed to have died 35 years ago—Elvis Aaron Presley. And they need John to investigate it.

When the Elvis impersonator, Al Leadbelly, is murdered, John investigates, finding Air Force colonel, Alvin Hollister—convinced Leadbelly has information regarding Elvis's death—at the crime scene conducting his own investigation. John discovers great-great-great grandfather's journal—unearthing a conspiracy entwining Elvis, shape-shifting aliens, and Mary Todd Lincoln. Now John must solve Leadbelly's murder and discover if he really was really Elvis, an obsessed fan, or something more.

Stranger than fictio and funnier than comedy ~ B.Y. Yan

A fun and entertaining read with a clever outcome ~ Karen L. Randau

Adventurous and engaging ~ Angela Cahill

Start reading:

Buy The Enigmatologist at Amazon

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Review: The Letterbox by Layton Green #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber

cover of The Letterbox
Fans of Dan Brown will want to crisscross Europe in search of the secrets of The Letterbox, Layton Green's exciting new thriller.

I fell in love with Green's writing with the Dominic Grey series (actually I fell in love with Dominic Grey, but the stories are great too). His stories are always filled with intricate intrigue that keeps the reader turning the pages. While The Letterbox is not in the Grey series, it is still a superb mystery that will have the reader questioning everything, even long after turning the last page.

Deep in the moors of England, a mysterious box is unearthed and immediately whisked away. Mr. Sofistere, a dealer of religious artifacts and other antiques, is tasked with identifying and authenticating this letterbox. There are unusual markings on the box which leads him to call in linguistic expert Lou. When Lou goes to the consultation his best friend Aiden (I'm not sure if these two characters are ever given last names in the story) tags along. What at they find is most intriguing and soon they find themselves on an adventure of a lifetime. Along they way they are joined by Asha, Mr. Sofister's assistant and eventual love interest of Aiden, and Jake a Catholic religion scholar.

It is noted that Lou is an atheist, Asha a spiritualist (she was a medium as a child), and Jake is a devout Catholic. However, the story is told in first person by Aiden who is lost in life. He doesn't know what he believes or what purpose his life has. He is unhappy with his life as a well-to-do corporate lawyer. By all accounts, he should be loving his life. But he feels like life is going in circles. So while all the characters are searching for something: Lou the next great scholarly pursuit, Asha answers to her lost powers and healing from the past, Jake a deeper faith and healing from the past, it is Aiden's journey that provides the most insight. He doesn't know what to believe, but he knows there is something bigger. His journey probably mirrors more closely that which most of the readers of The Letterbox would travel. In several places, readers can put themselves in Aiden's shoes.

Bone Church
Chandelier at Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
photo credit: Donna Huber
This self-identifying main character is just one way Green draws the reader inside the pages of the novel. Another is the incredible details of the places visited. Often, I just have to rely on the author doing his homework about the places described, but for at least one site the characters visit I have also been there. When the map on the letterbox reveals a place in Prague, my first thought was I bet they wind up in Kunta Hora. There's this cool ossuary known commonly as the Bone Church. During the plague, there were so many deaths that there weren't enough places for the bodies. One person made fixtures out of these bones. There's a chandelier made completely out of human bones. It's creepy and the perfect place for this book to take place.
There were bones everywhere: draping the walls, framing the archways, hanging from the ceiling, adorning the furnishings, comprising the furnishings. Statues of bones, candelabras of bones, portraits of bone, Catholic accoutrements carved from bone. pg. 165
Kutna Hora
Walkway in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
photo credit: Donna Huber
I visited Kutna Hora when I was in Europe several years ago and the descriptions in The Letterbox matched my own recollections. Even just this short sentences immediately brought the picture to my mind.
The next afternoon we huddled on wooden benches in front of the hotel, sipping coffee across the street from a sprawling Gothic cathedral with a statute-lined terrace. pg. 170

Given all this attention to detail, I was having trouble placing the time the story was taking place. In some ways it seemed that it was taking place several years ago as the technology seemed dated. None of them carried a laptop or seemed to have a smart phone. Then there was a mention of using francs in France. The franc was discontinued in 2002 when it France converted to the EURO. So I was thinking late 1990s/early 2000s. But then when they are in Kutna Hora, they gave the man 100 EURO. The Czech Republic still uses the Czech Crown. I was reading an advance copy so perhaps this detail was corrected in the final version.

But that is about the only complaint I had with the story. I wondered had one of the characters been a protestant believer instead of Catholic, how things might have been different. The ending left me with a number of questions, as it did for our narrator Aiden. While as many strings were tied up as was probably possible with a first person narrative, I felt like the story wasn't fully resolved. And in a way I think that might have been Green's intention. I think he wanted to leave the reader asking what really happened?

The Letterbox reminded me a lot of how I felt while reading The Da Vinci Code, but I think The Letterbox was better written. And long-time fans of Layton Green are going to love his new book.

Buy The Letterbox at Amazon

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (366 pages)
published: September 2016
ISBN13: 978-1535001298
genres: mystery, thriller
a free book was provided by the author for this review

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September 11, 2016

Comical Beach Read Explores Going Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rolling with Life's Punches

cover of Shore House Slumming
When everything in your life goes awry, do you admit defeat or is it time to take a step outside your comfort zone to find a better path? Author of Down the Aisle with Bridezilla, Carli Palmer returns to explore this very question with her latest work, Shore House Slumming. In this hilarious new chapter of chick lit, Palmer weaves together comedy, wit and adventure for a fun summer read you won't want to put down.
Working as an editor in Seattle, Dana Kline led a happy life. She had great friends, a career she adored and her health couldn’t be better. But everything about it was mundane and safe. No gamble would have made her change her ways, so life was going to change it for her.    
After an unexpected release from her job, then finding out that she would become practically homeless for the summer, Dana gathered her courage and found herself ready to try a new life in Florida. The only problem was getting herself across the nation on a tight budget, hardly any connections and an unadventurous self. After many stops along both coastlines, Dana finds out that it’s okay to let her hair down, meet new people and try new escapades—just as long as her sanity doesn’t fly away with the seagulls.
Lively and light, Shore House Slumming speaks to:
  • Why it's important to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things, even if they scare you.
  • Even when there’s no solution for you to discover, those are times when the problem will solve itself.
  • Though life isn’t always meant to be easy and smooth sailing, you can still pull through with grace and a bit of humor.
  • How she chose the locations for her book, as well as their significance to herself and the story.
  • Why having a weak character who learns a lesson is just as important as having one that starts off strong.

Start Reading:

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