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AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Monday, December 5, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Suzanne Johnson's 
SENTINELS OF NEW ORLEANS SERIES by adding a review of Belle Chasse, the fifth novel in the series.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the new review.

Saturday, December 3, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Kim Harrison's PERI REED CHRONICLES by adding a review of The Operator, the second novel in the series. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the new review.

Friday, November 25, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Robin D. Owens' GHOST SEER SERIES by adding a review of Ghost Maker, the fifth novel. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the new review.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Nalini Singh's GUILD HUNTER SERIES by adding a review of Archangel's Heart, the ninth novel. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the new review.

Friday, November 18, 2016


Title:  Blood Red Kiss 
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR) 
Ratings:  Violence3-4; Sensuality4+; Humor—2-3
Publisher and Titles:  Pocket Books (10/2016)

     What we have here is a collection of three novellas, each from a different series. One is a revised version of a story that was published in 2006. The other two are new. These are best read if you are already familiar with the mythologies of the  three series. That is particularly true of the final story, "Dark Swan."

     Click HERE to go to this book's page where you can then click on the cover art to read excerpts from the three novellas.      

                    PUBLISHER'S BLURB                    
     Good things always come in threes—and this paranormal romance anthology featuring steamy stories from New York Times bestselling authors Kresley Cole, Larissa Ione, and Gena Showalter is no exception! Get ready for a collection chock full of vamps, demons, aliens, and plenty of sizzle!

     In Kresley Cole's remastered story "The Warlord Wants Forever," the first in her scorching IMMORTALS AFTER DARK series, vampire warlord Nikolai Wroth will stop at nothing to claim his Bride, the one woman who can make his heart beat again. But can beautiful Myst the Coveted accept an enemy vampire as her own? 

     Tehya has spent the last twelve years as an accidental wolf, but is truly a vampire at heart. When she gets injured, Lobo sneaks her inside MoonBound's headquarters and nurses her back to health...with potentially deadly consequences. Desire collides with danger in "Forsaken by Night," a MOONBOUND CLAN novella from Larissa Ione!

  In Gena Showalter's OTHERWORLD ASSASSINS novella, "Dark Swan," Lilica Swan isn't quite human or otherworlder; she is the best—and worst—of both. She is willing to do whatever proves necessary to save her sister from the seductive and deadly Alien Investigation and Removal agent, Dallas Gutierrez, even bond her life to his...effectively wedding him. But without consummation, the bond will fade. Can Dallas resist his insatiable desire for the powerful beauty? Or will she lead to his ultimate downfall?

                   MY REVIEWS                      
1. Kresley Cole: "The Warlord Wants Forever"
     Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the IMMORTALS AFTER DARK series.

     This is a revised version of the very first entry in the IMMORTALS AFTER DARK SERIES that was first published back in 2006. In honor of the tenth anniversary of the series, Cole includes some extras: an explanation of the origin of the Valkyries as portrayed in this series; several pages of FAQs; a panorama showing the evolution of the cover art for A Hunger Like No Other; and a lengthy text dialogue among the three authors of this anthology. As usual, at the beginning of the novella, she includes excerpts from The Living Book of Lore that include pertinent information about the Lore, the Valkyries, the Vampires, the Horde, the Forbearers, and the Accession.

     This is a steamy interspecies love story starring the Valkyrie Myst (aka the Coveted One) and the Forbearer Nikolai Wroth. The story opens with a flashback to five years ago: Myst is imprisoned in the dungeon of Ivo the Cruel. While she is waiting for her sister Valkyries to rescue her, the castle is attacked and overrun by the forces of Kristoff, the rightful Horde king. (Be sure to read the introductory glossary, which explains the Horde, the Forbears, and the Fallen.) Each adult male vampire spends his undead existence in search of his Bride, who will make his heart beat again in a process called blooding (very similar to what happens in Christine Feehan's CARPATHIAN series when her ancient, lonely heroes meet their soulmates). 

     Nikolai rescues Myst from her cell, but promises to torture her if she doesn't give him information about various factions of the Lore. In retaliation, Myst begins her blooding with Nikolai but doesn't allow him to complete the process (if you know what I mean!). Instead, she escapes with her sisters, leaving Nikolai in a permanent, painful state of tumescencedesperate, all-consuming sexual desire that can never be fulfilled until he can track down Myst and consummate their bonding. As a bonus punishment, Myst allows Nikolai to drink a few drops of her blood, which floods him with her memories—including those of her centuries of sexual escapades—thus making him insanely jealous. 

     Fast-forward five years: Myst is back in New Orleans at the Valkyries' mansion, but so is Nikolai. He has finally tracked her down, and, as you can well imagine, he's in a very bad mood. With his tracing (aka teleporting) abilities, he soon captures her and manages to magically force her to follow his every order. Naturally, most of those orders are sex-related, so get ready for pages and pages and pages of erotic sex scenes. The remainder of the story follows the two on the bumpy road to their HEA, with many arguments, misunderstandings, and reconciliations that add twists and turns to the plot. This is a nice flashback to the early days of the fascinating mythology on which Cole has built this terrific series. Nikolai is definitely one of Cole's more dominant males, but you can hardly blame him after his Bride consigns him to five long years spent in a constant state of arousal.

2. Larissa Ione: "Forsaken by Night"
     Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the MOONBOUND CLAN VAMPIRES series. Note: This is my favorite of the three novellas. Both Lobo and his true love are terrific characters, with suitably tragic back-stories and plenty of charisma.

     Lobo is both a born vampire and a skinwalker. He was raised within the MoonBound Clan after its warriors murdered his parents for being skinwalkers. In this mythology, skinwalkers are feared and are usually killed on sight. Lobo spent his childhood years being treated (literally) like a dog: chained up on a pile of dirt, eating kitchen scraps and garbage, and being whipped and kicked by clan members. After Hunter took over the Clan, Lobo's living conditions improved slightly, but when he took the form of another vampire in order to ferret out a spy, Hunter refused to hear Lobo's side of the story and banished him from the Clan. 

     For years, Lobo has been living in an isolated cabin on the edge of the Clan's lands with only the company of a female wolf to keep him sane. Lobo found the wolf near death in the forest and nursed her back to health, naming her Tehya, which means "precious." By this time, they have become inseparable, and sometimes when he looks at her he sees a semi-transparent human figure—a gorgeous woman—transposed over Tehya's wolfy form. Soon, Lobo learns that Tehya is much more than a plain old wolf. You can probably guess what's coming, so I won't spoil it for you. 

     In any case, the story follows Lobo's romance, which includes no problems between him and his mate. All of the chaos and confusion are caused by Hunter and his followers, who believe that Lobo is a traitor to be feared and that Tehya is just as bad. Needless to say, the situation works itself out when Lobo and Tehya save the Clan by putting themselves in harm's way.

     As always, Ione provides meaty back-stories for her main characters, although they are similarly grim and Dickensian (in a paranormal sort of way). In this series, most of the heroes and heroines must suffer greatly in their early years in order to be rewarded with true love if they can manage to stay alive long enough to reach adulthood. 

     The plot is ingenious, just complex enough to be interesting. It's a terrific story that can be read as a standalone, although having the background from the earlier books would enrich your enjoyment. The romance has plenty of steamy love scenes as the lovers discover that they really enjoy the fact that they are fated to be together forever.

3. Gena Showalter: "Dark Swan"
     This is an ALIEN HUNTRESS novella. Click HERE to go to a page on Showalter's web site that lists the books in this series with links to plot summaries.

     As a person who has not read the novels in this series, I felt slightly lost in the mythology of this world. I did manage to make sense of the novella's plot, but I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the earlier books.

     Having said that, here is a brief summary of the plot: A set of female triplets have been created and raised in a laboratory of the Institute of Otherworld Technology (IOT): Lilica, Trinity, and Jade Swan. When the lab is destroyed, the scientists flee and the girls—now young women—are left alone to fend for themselves in a world that is totally unfamiliar to them. Unfortunately for Trinity, the scientists caused her to become infected with a succubus-type illness, a parasitic disease called Schön. A Schön host like Trinity addicts men to her taste. "Those men would then find themselves infected with the Schön disease, faced with a gruesome choice: have sex with others to spread the disease, keeping it from feeding on their own bodies, or rot from the inside out, ultimately succumbing to the desire to eat human flesh." So...yes, Trinity is running around the country spreading Schön and creating sex-zombies. Naturally, she has to be stopped.

     The three sisters were created from the DNA of 23 humans and aliens, with each one winding up with a slightly different mix of abilities and each one different in appearance from the others. Frankly, it's difficult to keep all of their abilities straight, particularly since sometimes at least one of them can absorb and use the superhuman abilities of people she touches.

     Dallas Gutierrez is an Alien Investigation and Removal (AIR) agent. AIR is an enforcement group that is trying to capture and destroy Trinity. Meanwhile, Lilica and Jade are trying to keep from being captured by AIR so that they can find Trinity and save her...somehow. When Lilica reads Dallas' mind and realizes that he is going to kill Trinity, she lets him capture her so that she can use her powers on him, specifically her "voodoo voice," which forces people to do exactly what she tells them to do. Unfortunately that doesn't work out so well because almost immediately Dallas and Lilica form a mate bond that binds their minds, bodies, and emotions closely togetherso closely that their powers don't work on each other.

     The story follows a convoluted path as Dallas and Lilica stumble their way through a series of erotic sex scenes even though he continues to control her through drug injections right up until the end of the book. Both have had terrible childhoods that they unwillingly share through a transference of memories. Things get very emotional towards the end when it seems that there may be no way to save Trinity, but much of the drama and emotion were lost on me because of the complexity of the plot, specifically the fact that these girls seemed to be able to pull out and use one power after another even though they had no idea that they had these new powers, and they had no training in using them. Sometimes it seemed that Showalter was using the girls' newly discovered powers as deux ex machina just to solve her plot problems. By the end, I was just happy that it was over.

     Again, let me repeat that my problems with this story probably stem from the fact that I am unfamiliar with this world. If you have been reading the series, you will probably have a better reaction than I did.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Author:  Steven Sherrill
Plot Type:  Magical Reality
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality3; Humor—3   
Publisher and Titles:  John F. Blair
          The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break (2000)
          The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time (2016)

     I read the first MINOTAUR novel fifteen years ago before I started this book review blog. Now, Sherrill has written a sequel, picking up M's life a decade and a half later. In this post, after a brief introduction to the world-building, I present summaries and reviews of both novels: First, the publisher's blurb and links to two excellent professional reviews of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break. Then, the publisher's blurb and my own review of The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time.

     To immerse yourself in the world of the Minotaur (aka "M") requires a complete suspension of disbelief. First and foremost, you must accept that M, a half-bull/half-man mythological creature, lives in the modern-day world amongst humans who pretty much accept him as a man—an odd, eccentric man, but still, a man. In the first book, M works as a line cook and lives in a run-down trailer park in small-town North Carolina. In the second novel, M has moved to central Pennsylvania, where he works as a Civil War re-enactor. 

     Sherrill is a poet as well as a novelist, and he based the first MINOTAUR novel on one of his poems. Click HERE to read that poem.

            NOVEL 1:  The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break            
     The Minotaur wakes without an alarm clock and always has; he wakes in the dead center of his narrow bed. He lives in a mobile home haphazardly furnished by the long-dead wife of his landlord, one dilapidated trailer among five laid out end to end, horseshoe fashion, around a small plot of crab grass, mimosas and dogwoods, also left over from the wife. Lucky-U Mobile Estates lies on the outskirts of the city, beyond most zoning laws, which are lax anyway. Sweeny, the landlord, lives in a brick house at the head of the washed-out gravel drive. On a small deck listing to one side at his back door, he frequently sits during the evenings, in his underwear, one pale bony leg draped over the other, drinking beer from a can, belching and overlooking his domain.

     The trailer is old and cramped, not designed for the likes of the Minotaur. He lies in the center of his bed vaguely remembering a time of more space. A time even before beds. But those memories are fleeting, nebulous. They fill him by turns with melancholy and a vague terror. Summer heat, undaunted by night, overpowers the oscillating fan on his chest of drawers. The air is so humid it’s almost visible; the topsail of the boat in the framed photograph seems to flutter. The sheets and the Minotaur’s pajama pants are damp from sweat. A baby-blue chenille bedspread lies bunched on the floor, kicked away during sleep. A dog barks outside his window.

     “Buddy! Shut up!” Sweeny yells from somewhere inside his house. Buddy, a wheezing piebald English bulldog, does in fact stop barking. Without looking the Minotaur knows Buddy is pacing back and forth on the concrete floor of his narrow chain-link run. Without doubt he knows that Buddy will start barking again in a few minutes. The dog run is small. The low wooden shelf offers little shade from the sun. Buddy’s only distraction is half of a chewed basketball. The Minotaur understands completely Buddy’s need to bark. Click HERE to go to the novel's page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.


     Although I read this book back in 2003, I was not writing blog reviews at that time, so I decided to forgo a re-read and, instead, provide links to the best reviews (in my humble opinion) that were written back when the novel was published: Click HERE to read Megan O'Grady's excellent review in the New York Times, entitled "Dreaming of Hoofbeats." Click HERE to read Colin Greenland's review in The Guardian, entitled "Animal Magnetism." Click HERE to read James Urquhart's review in The Independent.

            NOVEL 2:  The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time            
     Sixteen years have passed since Steven Sherrill first introduced “M,” the selfsame Minotaur from Greek mythology, transplanted to the modern American South, in The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break. Since the book’s publication, it has been translated into eight languages.

     In 2011, Neil Gaiman selected this work of contemporary Americana as one of five books for his initial line of audiobooks for’s “Neil Gaiman Presents.” The novel also made The Wall Street Journal’s list of the “Five Best Novels Not About Humans” and The Telegraph’s list of the “10 Best Food and Drink Books of All Time.” This fall, Steven Sherrill is bringing M back for a sequel.

     In The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time, the Minotaur has moved north, from a life of kitchens and trailer parks to that of Civil War re-enactors at a run-down living history village in the Rust Belt of central Pennsylvania. Though he dies now, in uniform, on a regular basis, his daily struggles remain unchanged. Isolation. Loneliness. Other-ness.

     Cared for by the Guptas, the immigrant family that runs the motel where he lives, and tolerated by his coworkers at Old Scald Village, M wants only to find love and understanding. The serendipitous arrival of Holly and her damaged brother, waylaid on their own journey of loss, stirs hope in the Minotaur. As their paths overlap, readers will find themselves rooting for the old half-man, half-bull as he stumbles toward a real live human relationship.


    In this second novel, Sherrill hits a bit harder at satirizing the poverty—of spirit, finances, and future prospects—of Rust Belt America, with central Pennsylvania representing the vacuous, lowbrow core of the country. Interspersed with realistic life scenes are sections of abstract expressionism—riffs on M's travels from his mythological birth to his current life as a Civil War re-enactor and motel handyman, but also some that involve M's growing feelings for Holly. I have to admit that I skimmed through these because they felt contrived and theatrical and because sometimes they made little sense.

     As the story opens, M is dying—symbolically—as a faux Confederate soldier on the battlefield at Old Scald Village, just as he does every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. ("The Union always wins on Friday.") M has been working at the living history park for years, happy enough in his job that he hasn't had the urge to move on. One Sunday morning, though, M wakes up feeling uneasy: "Change is coming. Change. Change threatens to overtake the plodding old bull The Minotaur knows it. For better or worse is in the eye of the beholder."

     Sure enough, when the day's battle is over and M comes back to life, he has yet another accident involving his unwieldy horns and his bulbous black snout. But this time the results are so calamitous that he is fired from his re-enactment job and ordered off the premises. After this catastrophe, M spends every day doing cleanup and repairs at the Judy-Lou Motel, run by an Indian family who, as reverers of cattle, respect M and provide him with as normal a life as a 21st century minotaur could possibly expect. Across the road lives Danny Tanneyhill, a horny, hard-drinking, braggadocios chainsaw sculptor who hauls in huge tree trunks and turns them into roadside "art."

     Into this scene drives Holly and her brain-damaged brother, Tookus, in a broken-down van that seizes up and dies right in front of the motel. Tookus's injury has left him with symptoms that mimic a severe case of Tourette syndrome: unpredictable motor tics and incessant cursing. Holly, a gorgeous, flirtatious, poverty-stricken redhead, is on her way to put her hard-to-control brother into institutional care in Pittsburgh, a sad but necessary decision that is eating her up with guilt. Soon, a weird love triangle emerges with Holly, Danny, and M at its lusty angles and Tookus in the center, cursing up a continuous stream of profanity and flailing at his sister's breasts: "Boobies. Booooobieeeees."

     As the story plays out to its inevitable, heavily foreshadowed conclusion, we watch Mworld-weary but still looking for lovetrying once again to make a connection with a human woman, but inevitably failing when his horns get in the way (both metaphorically and in reality).

     For me, this book is less successful than the first, partly because of its slow pace, but also because of Sherrill's heavy-hitting preoccupation with aspects of life in central Pennsylvania, tucking in odd tidbits of local history and culture (e.g., mountain pies, the Slinky factory, abandoned limestone kilns) while frequently satirizing its citizens: the shrill, mindless tourists; the narrow-minded, reactionary locals; the hardcore re-enactors who are always "looking down their period-correct noses at the mere pretenders." (These desperate, disillusioned, angry folks were never going to vote for Hillaryno matter what the polls said!)

     The most touching parts of M's life are related to the Gupta family, particularly his tender relationship with the Gupta's toddler grand-daughter, Devmani, who demonstrates her unbridled affection for M every time she sees him, even feeding him delicious sticky sweets from her own fingers. Also poignant is his reverence for the "dusty and diminutive" statuette of Ganesh in the motel lobby—the half-human, half-elephant god that mimics M's own physique. "The Minotaur has encountered this beast...many times over the centuries. Yet every time he is moved by those beneficent black eyes, the inquisitive trunk. All those hands. Measure for measure, they are more alike than different."

     Even though I didn't enjoy this novel quite as much as the first, I love M as a character—a long-suffering ancient creature of myth forced to live out his life in the metaphorical maze of modern life. His conversational grunts—"Unngh" and "Mmmnn"cloak a rich whirlpool of conflicting emotions, misguided hopes, and unreachable dreams, all fully articulated within M's mind but never reaching the ears of the humans with whom he interacts. Early in the book, Sherrill describes M's life: "A life as long as the Minotaur'sthat half-man half-bull, and fully scapegoata life that long doubles back on itself from time to time. Caves in...The world shifts continuously beneath his feet." And it keeps on shifting and caving in all the way to the end.

     Click HERE to read the review of this novel that appeared in the New York Times on October 10, 2016. Click HERE to go to the novel's page where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Kelley Armstrong: "Otherworld Chills: Final Tales of the OTHERWORLD"

Author:  Kelley Armstrong
Title: Otherworld Chills: Final Tales of the Otherworld (FINAL anthology, 10/2016)
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher and Titles: Plume (imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)   

   I am placing this review of Armstrong's final OTHERWORLD anthology in a separate post because it is so long. Click HERE to read the rest of my reviews of OTHERWORLD novellas, novels, and anthologies.

     All but one of these stories and novellas have been previously published, so if you are a fan of the series, you've probably read some of them already. The new novella—"Baby Boom"—is a thought-provoking Paige/Lucas story that ends the anthology. For me, all of the stories were entertaining because I'm such a big fan of the series, but I'd have to admit that my favorite is "The Puppy Plan" because I'm crazy about Clay and Elena's twins.

     Embrace the obscure. New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong once again opens the gates to the Otherworld. This collection of rare and never-before-published novellas and short stories brings the clever wit, dark twists, and intense suspense Otherworld readers have come to expect. Favorite characters return, secrets are revealed, and several important story lines reach their conclusions.

                   THE NOVELLAS                    
RATINGS:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor—2   

This novella was originally published by Subterranean Press in 2013. It is currently available as a stand-alone in hardcover and e-book formats. NOTE: The hardcover edition includes six color interior illustrations by Xaviere Daumarie, but the e-book does not contain the artwork. Click on either pink-link above to go to the novella's page where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art.

Nick Sorrentino knows everyone in the supernatural world considers him the Pack’s playboy, the pretty but not very useful werewolf whose only reputation involves his amorous exploits. Usually, Nick couldn’t care less what anyone outside the Pack thinks of him. But when it affects his hunt for Malcolm Danvers, a psychotic bogeyman from the Pack’s past, it matters. Necessity forces Nick to team up with mercenary half-demon Vanessa Callas to run Malcolm to ground in Detroit. Together, they discover Malcolm is more deadly than ever. And he wants to play. It’s time for Nick to prove he’s not just a lover. He’s a fighter.

Nick Sorrentino and Vanessa Callas are the romantic leads, and Malcolm Danvers is the villain. Vanessa works for Rhys Smith's team of supernatural mercenaries, and she is the agent in charge of this case.

The story is set just nine months after Elena took over as pack leader, just about the same time the pack learned that Malcolm Danvers (Jeremy's sociopathic father) is alive—not dead for twenty years as everyone had believed. If you have forgotten just how vicious Malcolm was in earlier books, this story will be a horrifying reminder. As Malcolm zigzags back and forth across Detroit, he leaves a trail of mutilated bodies in his wake. Here's the worst one: "Malcolm nailed her to the ceiling [of the attic], cut her throat and let her bleed out, hanging there." Some of his victims are his enemies, but others are innocents. The theme of the story is Nick's need to prove to himself and to his pack that he can do the job when it comes to getting rid of Malcolm once and for all (except that if you have read the more recent novels and novellas, you know that is not going to happen here). Nevertheless, by the time Nick is through with him, Malcolm has some new respect for Nick's strategic planning and fighting prowess. This is a great story, but you really have to cast your mind way back in time and block out the last few of Malcolm's appearances in order to fully appreciate it.

RATINGS:  Violence3; Sensuality2.5; Humor—3   

This novella is available separately as an e-book novella. It was originally part of Dates from Hell (2006), an anthology of four supernatural-themed novellas with Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, and Lori Handeland. Click HERE to go to the novella's page where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art.

Half-demon Hope Adams loves her job. Granted, working for True News tabloid isn’t quite the career her high-society family had in mind for her. What they don’t know is that the tabloid job is just a cover, a way for her to investigate stories with a paranormal twist, and help protect the supernatural world from exposure. When Hope’s handler sends her and a date to a museum charity gala, Hope suspects there’s more to it than a free perk. He’s tested her before. This time, she’s ready for whatever he throws her way. Or so she thinks…until she meets her target: the intriguing, infuriating, and just plain sexy werewolf thief, Karl Marsten.

Hope Adams makes her series debut in this novella and meets her future husband, bad-boy Karl Marsten. Naturally enough, it's lust at first sight. Tristan Robard, who works for the Cortez Cabal, is the villain.

Hope Adams is working hard at two jobs: writing about pseudo-paranormal activities for a tabloid newspaper and working undercover for the interracial council to seek out supernatural problems. The covert job is the perfect solution for Hope's constant need to be near chaos. After all, she is an Expisco Half-Demon who craves chaos. Here, she explains how it works: " unending parade of negative chaos in every conceivable form, from grief to rage to sorrow to jealousy to hate. I saw, heard, felt, experienced it all. And the worst of it?...My soul drank it in like the finest champagne, reveling in the sweet taste." Hope and Karl are terrific characters who manage to outwit the villains every step of the way. They are both smart, witty, off-beat outliers with strong personalities, and they enjoy living on the edge. This is a tense, suspenseful story that has a sweet thread of newly aroused romance running through it.

          "Amityville Horrible"          

This novella was originally published in 2013 and is currently available separately in two formats: e-book and leather-bound, signed and numbered limited edition hardcover. The hardcover version features six interior illustrations by Maurizio Manzieri. Click HERE to go to the novella’s e-book page on where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

Jaime Vegas—spiritualist, entertainer and, unbeknownst to her audience, real-life necromancer—swore she’d never do another reality ghost show after the last fiasco. But when she’s railroaded into a charity gig, she finds herself back on the set, this time with a cast of photogenic college kids, an up-and-coming Russian spiritualist, and a tale of missing girls and murder in New England. It’s cheesy, but that’s show business. With her werewolf Alpha lover, Jeremy Danvers, along to keep her nights interesting, it’s not so bad really. Until the bloody ghosts show up. Jaime has never faced spirits like these, and no matter how hard she tries, they won’t be ignored.  

Jaime Vegas, necromancer and professional spiritualist, narrates the story in her sardonic, first-person voice. Her boyfriend, Jeremy, plays a tangential supporting role, but Jaime is at the heart of the action. There are several villains, so I'll let you figure them out on your own. A word to the wise: suspect everyone. The story is set just before Jeremy turns over his pack alpha position to Elena.

This is basically a haunted house mystery story—a sort of ghost busters reality show gone wrong. Against her better judgment, Jaime accepts an assignment to do a ghost-hunting TV show in a house in the infamous town of Amityville. From the very beginning, things begin to go wrong: ghosts don't act like ghosts; some ghosts are visible but one is not; a spiritualist is added to the cast, which violates a clause in Jaime's contract; and several of the "normals"—locals recruited to participate—are definitely not the sharpest arrows in the quiver, if you get my drift. The story, which involves three murdered girls, doesn't really feel like a good fit with this collection because it actually reads like a novel from a ghost-buster series. Here are a few of those series that I have reviewed. If you're a fan of ghostly mysteries with flickering lights and things that go bump in the night, click on the series title to read my reviews:
          Robin D. Owens' GHOST SEER series
          Victoria Laurie's GHOST HUNTER MYSTERIES
          Amanda Stevens'  THE GRAVEYARD QUEEN series
          Chris Marie Green’s JENSEN MURPHY, GHOST FOR HIRE series

          "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"          

This short story, which is narrated by Zoe, was originally published in the anthology, Expiration Date (2015), a collection of 25 original stories that examine the "what-ifs" of our expiring future. The anthology is currently available in e-book and used paperback formats. Click HERE to go to the Expiration Date's e-book page on where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

Vampires Zoe Takano and Cassandra DuCharme are the main characters of this short story (just 15 pages), which is set in Zoe's city, Toronto. There is no true villain, just two old frenemies getting reacquainted.

When Cass turns up in Zoe's favorite dive bar, she obviously wants a favora favor that Zoe is unwilling to grant until Cass apologizes for a long-ago interference in Zoe's lifeone that caused her to lose someone that she loved very much. Cass is too proud to say that difficult "S" word, so Zoe sets up an ingenious sting to motivate Cass to do the right thing. The story takes place just before Zoe becomes a delegate to the interracial council.

         "Off-Duty Angel"          

"Off-Duty Angel" is one of two novellas published in Armstrong's The Hunter and the Hunted (2012). The anthology is currently available in e-book format. Click HERE to go to its page on where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

Dark witch and half-demon Eve Levine is desperate for a little entertainment while her lover, Kristof Nast, is detained in afterlife court—enough to volunteer an extra week’s worth of angel corps duty just to pass the time. Luckily something even better comes up: a real celestial bounty-hunter mission to trail a shaman, someone who might prove to be a useful lead in Kristof’s court case. Following the target goes smoothly, until he leads Eve to the British Museum, where she inadvertently steps into a secret dimensional passage and stumbles upon a far more enticing puzzle . . . and a much greater danger.

Eve and her angelic partner, Trsiel, are adventurers who find themselves in a very hellish dimension. Eve's lover, Kristof, makes brief appearances at the beginning and the end. The villains are hordes of nameless, devilish creatures who are intent on making Eve and Trsiel's lives miserable. 

Although at one point this appears to be a dark story with some substance, it turns out to be something else entirely. Eve is always fun because she has such a sardonic take on her life (and death): "dark witch, half-demon, part-time ghost, part-time angel." Trust me, it's complicated. This is an entertaining story, but I was hoping for something more substantial.

          "The Puppy Plan"          

"The Puppy Plan," told from the perspective of nine-year-old Logan Danvers, is one of two novellas published in Armstrong's Gifted: A Holiday Anthology (2014). The anthology is currently available in e-book format. Click HERE to go to its page on where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

When Logan finds a puppy abandoned by the roadside a few days before Christmas, he knows it’s a sign. His sister Kate wants a dog more than anything. Their parents aren’t completely opposed to the idea. It’s just a bad time. A really bad time. Maybe next year. But now there’s this puppy in need of a home and a girl in need of a pet…So how does a boy who always plays by the rules give his sister what she wants most?

Logan and the puppy are the main characters. The supporting characters are the rest of the Danvers family: Kate, Elena, Clay, and Jeremy.

Even though this is a puppy story, it is steeped in Logan's coming-of-age angst. Even at age nine, Logan is almost too good to be true. He is a smart, respectful, responsible, and thoughtful boy—so perfect that I believe he can exist only in a book of fiction. If you can get past the perfection that is Logan, the story—about an abandoned puppy, a scared young mutt, and an upcoming Christmas holiday—is terrific, layered with humor, sadness, anxiety, andeventuallyjoy. Armstrong gives the story line a satisfying twist at the very end.   

          "Baby Boom"          
RATINGS:  Violence1; Sensuality2; Humor—2   

"The Baby Boom" is a new Paige/Lucas novella.

Paige and Lucas are the main characters with Benicio Cortez, Savannah Levine, and Adam Vasic as the supporting characters. There is one mildly villainous character who is the catalyst for the twist at the end of the story.

Lucas, Paige, Adam, and Savannah are making one of their infrequent visits to Miami, to visit Lucas's father, Benicio Cortez. Savannah is four months pregnant, so she and Paige are doing lots of shopping for baby paraphernalia. One night, when Paige and Lucas have dinner with Benicio, he urges them to have a child so that Lucas's position as his heir will be solidified. An argument ensues, with Lucas telling Benicio that they have decided not to have children and to stay out of their personal business. All too soon, though, something strange seems to be going on with Paige, and she suspects that Benicio is using trickery to make his demand come true. The theme is the ambivalence that Lucas and Paige feel about parenthood and how they come to terms with their feelings. There is no violence, only unforgivable actions taken by greedy, ambitious men who are willing to go to unbelievable lengths to achieve their selfish goals. This is a great little story that points into a very different future for the cartels, but since this is the final book in the OTHERWORLD anthology series, I'm not sure that we will ever learn what happens next.