Jennifer Kelland Perry: Calmer Girls

In well crafted sentences Jennifer Kelland Perry traces the journey of sixteen year old Samantha Cross and her family through their different struggles: sister rivalry, parents’ divorce, moving to a new place, teen pregnancy, mother’s drinking, money worries, Alzheimer’s and death. Whew!

Jennifer Perry Amazon

Although the plot of Calmer Girls is far more dramatic than my adolescence ever was, I was filled with nostalgic moments as I found myself reminiscing about my own adolescence with its taste of first love and the confusion of young adult friendships.

The Coming-of-Age story takes place in St John’s, Newfoundland, a city and province I have always wanted to visit and, thus, appreciated the author’s descriptions of St John’s and what it was like growing up there in the 90’s.

 

II found the characters interesting and the author did a good job of portraying their faults along with the family’s dynamics. Although it is categorized as a YA novel, I thought the mother in the story added a domestic reality as she coped with being a mother to two teenage girls while in the midst of a separation and having to relocate to a new city. My interest was sustained until the end. Jennifer Perry makes us care about these broken characters.

 

 

 

 

 

Jacqui Murray: The Quest For Home

the-quest-for-home-book-cover

Driven from her home. Stalked by enemies. Now her closest ally may be a traitor.

In her recent novel, The Quest for Home, Jacqui Murray ( using paleontological facts as backdrop) has written a well-researched work of fiction in which she brilliantly brings to life what it was like to live 830,000 years ago.

Through her main character, Xhosa, Jackie Murray provides the reader with the keys to survival: wit, strategy and perseverance. I loved that the lead warrior is a woman and that her characters come from diverse backgrounds such as Africa, Indonesia, China and Israel. Through them we learn how these people communicated, how they interacted with the animals in the wild and their struggle to survive. I was in awe by the physical and psychological strength of these people – our ancestors.

If you have followed Jacqui’s blog you know that she has a series of “how-to-describe” posts. For example, how to describe sight, how to describe pain, how to describe nature and so forth. Here, in The Quest for Home she applies her advice in how to describe similes:

Pan-do was like a river, curling over the land, sunlight glinting off its rippled surface, a welcome sight because it brought life. But underneath flowed fierce currents. Sharp rocks and treacherous plants filled its depths and it was home to vicious creatures that bit and tore without remorse. Pan-do, once riled, was no stranger to violence. He used it skillfully when he had no other choice, as a means to an end.

A word about violence. In her non-fiction introduction – which is an elucidation on prehistoric man – Jacqui Murray explains how the need to be violent was necessary in order to survive a treacherous world. In the novel’s opening, the violence was against Nature whereby  flood forced tribes to migrate; but the violence was also a means to survive against rival tribes. In this respect, we as mankind have not evolved all that much. We still have our wars, floods and hurricanes that force people to migrate, just as they did in prehistoric times.

The Quest for Home is book 2 of her Crossroads trilogy; however, it can be read as a standalone. Besides using her creative skills to craft a captivating adventure, Jacqui, also shines as an educator in sharing her knowledge of this period. If you are at all interested in learning about your prehistoric ancestors this is a novel you should pick up.

Bravo, Jacqui, for such a notable and sweeping novel.

 

Jack A.Tittle: Saving Alice

I met Jack Tittle at an Algonkian Writer’s Workshop in Virginia a few years back where he was workshopping his legal mystery novel Ripples After Death while I was working my crime novel Warning Signs, which I hope to have out soon.
For my review of Ripples After death click here.

Saving Alice, unlike his legal mystery Ripples After Death, is a fantasy where the characters find themselves in different past time zones. The setting (in the woods) plays an important role as the characters attempt to navigate their lives together.

Jack Tittle Saving Alice

Unable to cope with life, two strangers wish they could live in a time when life was simpler. They meet in the past, charged with the responsibility of righting a wrong before they can return to the present. The woman is escaping from an abusive relationship and a scary past. She distrusts all men and feels safer in her present environment. The man feels he cannot trust women because his girlfriend for the last three years just tried to trick him into a proposal of marriage.
Their life experiences make it difficult for them to accomplish anything, but as they get to know each other, they find common ground to push their intentions forward. As they approach the end of their mission, they make a startling discovery, and their lives change.

I found the novel to be relaxing and pleasant. I read most of it by the pool where I was taken into a fairy-tale world which I found comforting and intriguing.

You can view Saving Alice here.

 

 

T.W. Allgaier: Peace in the Midst

Peace in the midst

An envelope lies unopened in her office. Bakery owner and mom, Mattie, is recently divorced. Her three kids don’t understand why. Running her life in the 1980’s has proven more difficult than she imagined and was about to get more complicated.
Esther, a young widow, is trying to run a farm and raise her three children alone in the early 1940’s. How could her circumstances get any worse?
Thomas, the new county sheriff, is trying to make sense of his life. How did his life turn upside down when he was trying to do the right thing?

What I liked about this book, besides its interesting plot, is the goodness of the characters throughout. Sure, there are a few (very few) dubious, selfish characters, but for the most part the author writes about the caring and kindness of mankind. It is heartwarming and made me feel good reading it as it gave me hope in humanity. Of particular interest, was the emphasis placed on a man as hero.
Although the author’s own moral values are supported by Biblical passages the truths, honor and charity of human nature at its best are universal.
This is a good pick me up book in keeping with the nature of the author’s blog where she offers words of encouragement.

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Olga Núñez Miret: Escaping Psychiatry

Psychiatry, law and writing. These are three of my favorite subjects to read about. Escaping Psychiatry: Beginnings includes all three. The novella is as much a psychological thriller as it is a legal one.
Mary, the protagonist, is a very relatable and likeable character. In attempts to get away from her career as a psychiatrist and shift to one in writing, Mary is distracted into her role as psychiatrist and finds herself entangled in a court case involving a famous writer accused of murder.
The plot is interesting and the author instills enough suspense to make you want to continue reading. The author, herself a forensic psychiatrist, brings credibility and authenticity to the protagonist.
In this prequel, the author has set the foundation for the remainder in her series:

“Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings is the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry a volume collecting three stories where Mary and her psychiatric expertise are called to help in a variety of cases, from religious and race affairs, to the murder of a policeman, and in the last case she gets closer than ever to a serial killer.”

 

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Christoph Fischer: The Body in the Snow

The body in the snow

 

Figuring out the puzzle in a mystery is always a lot of fun and has the added perk of exercising the brain.
The Body in the Snow is a modern version of a classic Agatha Christie plotline. Set in Llangurrey, a remote hamlet tucked miles away from the nearest town, is experiencing the worst snowstorm in twenty years. All roads and motorways have been closed.
I was immediately drawn into this cozy whodunit and the domestic dynamics among the characters.
The author begins by introducing the characters, a bit of their background, their family, marital status and so forth in very broad drawn strokes. You get the picture. There’s a Diva, a happy divorcee, a handyman and a host of other unlikeable characters.
Now, in present time, they find themselves neighbors, along with their past histories, secrets and personalities that clash with each other. The characters have such unique characteristics that I had no problem distinguishing them from each other, as is not always the case when there are multiple characters in a story. One of the more endearing interactions was between Bebe, a fading star and Beth, a rooky but spunky detective.
Fischer’s detective Beth is a lot of fun and brings lightness and charm to the novel. No gore or violence was a plus. It was simply a fun, light relaxing read and a pleasant way to exercise the brain muscles.

J.E. Spina: Hunting Mariah

 

Hunting Mariah

It isn’t because Hunting Mariah reminded me of my own in progress novel that I really loved this book, although that didn’t hurt. There’s a serial killer’s hunger for school girls whom Spina gives reasons for his macabre behavior as she allows us to get inside his insane mind and his intensifying obsessive need to kill. He will stop at nothing until he satisfies his warped hunger to hunt down Mariah.

The novel contains many plot angles that drive it forward. Of course, there’s why Mariah is being hunted by the serial killer in the first place – a mystery which the author is able to maintain throughout the novel. Why is she kept in isolation in a psychiatric ward and what are her memory blanks about? Why can’t Tony, a man who obviously cares deeply for Mariah but for reasons revealed only much later in the novel, return his love for her? Adding more tension are the secondary characters that inhabit this thriller and Spina has the talent to create suspense around each of them.

Although the author makes clear from the beginning who the killer is I kept wondering, as other characters were introduced and more twists were added, if it could be someone else.

Writing under the name Janice Spina the author is known for writing children’s books – at least over a dozen. Hunting Mariah brings J.E. Spina into the respectful world of fast-paced adult thrillers which will keep you turning the pages.