Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Review: Lever Templar

Lever Templar Lever Templar by Matt Gianni
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

History has always amazed me with the ways in which various religions can drive individuals and groups to incredible heights (or depths). Witness as one example the Inquisition. Another example is the Knights Templar, an incredibly dedicated order willing to fight in the Crusades, to battle to recover Jerusalem, against an equally dedicated army from another strongly-motivated religion. The secrecy of the Knights Templar and the Order's purported treasure have also kept readers and historians spellbound for centuries. In LEVER TEMPLAR, the premise is that the Order keeps secret a scroll which gives leverage over the then very powerful Roman Catholic Church. The ramifications apply not only to the 14th century, but also to today. LEVER TEMPLAR is a well-written and fast-paced thriller combining history and contemporary religion and cultures.

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Review: Sleepless Nights: 168 Thriller, Horror, Suspense, and Mystery Short Stories

Sleepless Nights: 168 Thriller, Horror, Suspense, and Mystery Short Stories Sleepless Nights: 168 Thriller, Horror, Suspense, and Mystery Short Stories by Tobias Wade
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think that many consecutive nights without sleep would lead to psychosis. Nevertheless, you can enjoy scaring yourself with these tales, which collect 4 of the author's already published collections:
Running the gamut of horror, author Tobias Wade provides stories to chill every fan of the genre. Settle in, make sure all the lights in your house are on, and enjoy.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Review: The Serpent Waits

The Serpent Waits The Serpent Waits by Bill Hiatt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE SERPENT WAITS is the first novel by Bill Hiatt that I've read, but it's certainly not going to be the last I read of this prolific author. THE SERPENT WAITS is a glorious combination of magic, magical realism, fantasy, and even science fiction and legend and mythology, drawing on a vast number of cultural legends across the globe. There's all you've heard of and very likely some you haven't! Amy is an investigative reporter in L.A. who receives a tip about a ti small community called Santa Brigidia, located near Santa Barbara, California. On the surface it seems to be a Utopia, but according to the terrorized informant, people disappear, the weather behaves bizarrely, and it's all due to one woman, a philanthropist and developer named Carrie Winn. When Amy gets approval to investigate, she goes "undercover" and applies for employment, only to discover that her worldview no longer applies, to anyone at Santa Brigidia nor even to herself. This is a stay-up-all-night-to-finish story.

YA/NA oriented but entertaining and enlightening for us older folks too!

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Review: The Spread: A Zombie Novel

The Spread: A Zombie Novel The Spread: A Zombie Novel by Sean Deville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

THE SPREAD is a lovingly detailed account of a very real near-future probability: a pandemic involving an unidentifiable and unstoppable virus. Not only does it kill seven billion population; it's also a resurrecting virus. Yes, zombies are created by it. I enjoyed the "backstage" look at "The Other Government," a UK department of Military Intelligence, which performs what Americans call "Black Ops."

If you prefer your Apocalypse implacable, surely you will marvel at the Lazarus virus. It's undefeatable and indefatigable--or is it? Seven billion think it is.

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Review: The Cassandra

The Cassandra The Cassandra by Sharma Shields
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading THE CASSANDRA is a monumental Reading Experience. I read it in a matter of hours because I couldn't turn away, I couldn't stop reading, and I thought about it all night afterwards. This literary historical novel was my first introduction to author Sharma Shields, and it "blew me away." I'd long been interested in the World War II history of Hanford, Washington, so I was excited to discover this novel, but I received far more than I expected. Not only is Sharma Shields an incredibly gifted writer, she also paints so capably the history, the individuals, and yes, "the product," the driving force and rationale for the military installation at Hanford, once a village and home of a native tribe who fished the Columbia River. Before World War II, the air there was pure and the Columbia safe from pollution. That was soon not the case. Ms. Shields very subtly draws on the damage, both to the region, to the inhabitants, to the personnel at the installation, and of course to the end result: Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

She also weaves in prophecy (hence the title), reflections on humanity as a species, and individual terms, and metaphysics and psychology. (Whether it is one or the other of those last two likely depends on one's perspective.) Protagonist Mildred Groves (her life still makes me shudder) is a plain, rather plump, young woman from a small Central Washington community, caretaker of an ailing mother. Mildred may have psychological issues (if so, that is quite understandable); or she may actually be a seer, a prophetess. In order to escape her life, she applies as a typist at the new Hanford installation, and indeed she is highly skilled in stenography and typing. However, her personality is not strong nor stable enough to withstand the constant stresses, and just as many of the men break under the constant wind if they are assigned outdoors, so does Mildred lose control of her prophesying, and just as in school, she again becomes known as "Mad Mildred."

This is just one of the layers of this complex story. There is also rqcism, sexism, sadism, and the horrible nature of state mental hospitals, militarism, rape culture, patriarchy. Even though this is the story of one individual, it is also the story of a time, of a process, of horrifying consequences, and a prediction of a vitally bleak future for the globe. I cannot recommend highly enough THE CASSANDRA.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review: Black Wings

Black Wings Black Wings by Megan Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BLACK WINGS is a totally engrossing psychological thriller, with implications for civilization's future. I identified with multiple characters (a rare event), including the focus character Briella, and her beleaguered but well-intentioned mother Marian. BLACK WINGS sets out on an intriguing, yet possible, premise; and becomes horrifying in its implacability. While many science-fiction stories cope with the "dangers" of Artificial Intelligence, BLACK WINGS examines the possibilities of a child with clearly genius-level intelligence, a child Stephen Hawking without adult maturity and stability, a child developing a wild and willful temperament to match the high intellectual capability. BLACK WINGS is a novel impossible to put down till the end.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Review: The Playing Card Killer

The Playing Card Killer The Playing Card Killer by Russell James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in Tampa, Florida, THE PLAYING CARD KILLER is a twisty psychological thriller with a murder mystery entwined plus elements of the Paranormal. Poor Brian, adopted young, has always since early childhood suffered with anxiety disorders. Put on a court-appointed therapy and medication regime at thirteen, he is nearly twenty now. He has a decent, if unexciting, job, a new girlfriend, and an apartment. He also has occasional dinners with his adoptive family, which is enough to give even a person with anxiety disorder trouble. But Brian's real trouble begins when he decides to give up the medications, which make him fuzzy and out of touch. Then the nightmares start; then the daytime hallucinations; then the real trouble, as he has nightmares of being a horrible killer. Worse yet, he's targeted as the Playing Card Killer. Brian doesn't know what to think, and for quite a while, the reader is puzzled too because the real cause is something seldom, if ever, occurring. Plenty of twists and thrills in this mystery!

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review: Trigger

Trigger Trigger by David Swinson
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

TRIGGER is a, full-on gritty crime noir set in Washington, D.C., starring a vigilante protagonist, ex-cocaine addict (recovering) and recovering alcoholic,.I former Metro D.C. narcotics bureau detective (how apropos). Frank Marr is now a P.I. in D.C., after being forced to resign from the Police Department and in addition losing the woman he still loves, not so much because of his addictions, but for his years of lies and covering-up. Now he spies out dealers and burgles their stashes, flushing the drugs, pocketing the money. It's still an adrenaline rush, but it's also still a temptation.

If this series had been set in Scotland instead of in D.C., I would compare it to the crime noir fiction of Stuart MacBride. That gives you the impression of what kind of full-bore noir author David Swinson delivers.

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Review: The Laird of Duncairn

The Laird of Duncairn The Laird of Duncairn by Craig Comer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's something special about Fantasy, or Urban Fantasy, or Science Fiction, Horror, Steampunk--any kind of Speculative Fiction really--when it is molded in the hands of a master. The world-building that enchants, the characters who demand and receive all your empathy, the plot that twists and turns, endangering your favourite characters yet enabling their evolution--all that makes a story priceless. I give you the fantastic 'gaslamp fantasy" LAIRD OF DUNCAIRN, which happens to be Book 1 of FEY MATTER by Craig Comer (I can't wait to read Book 2). If you don't immediately fall in love with this book, I'd be very surprised (or you've unfortunately become the dread Jaded Reader). I loved it.

Set in alternative late 19th century Scotland, when the Fey are hunted and shunned pretty much in the status of the 17th century Witch Hunts, a young orphaned half-blood (half-Fey) girl who has incredible apport with all animals proves to be the only one who can stop the oncoming Human-Fey Conflict.

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Friday, February 8, 2019

Review: MELANIN by Mike Freeman

<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41793117-melanin" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img border="0" alt="Melanin: The Melanin Chronicles: Book One" src="https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1536604843m/41793117.jpg" /></a><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41793117-melanin">Melanin: The Melanin Chronicles: Book One</a> by <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18602243.Mike_Freeman">Mike      Freeman</a><br/>
My rating: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2707903703">5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
MELANIN is an absolutely extraordinary science fiction short story that inspired in me more hope than I have experienced in decades. The concept that there could be aliens who are not bent on invasion, destruction, or colonization, not after stealing Earth's resources; the idea that there is anyone in the Universe bent on pacifism and aid--is so compelling that I shall never forget this story. The downside of reading this was its exploration of an America post-Trump, worse than the current climate of hatred and supremacy. Thank goodness the story offers a way out--hope, change, and a new beginning. Mike Freeman has superbly delineated today, the inevitable future, and a potential positive future. I've not been so powerfully affected since reading Walter Mosley's JOHN WOMAN.
<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/7302570-cats-of-ulthar-february-weird-fiction">View all my reviews</a>

Review: Fade To Silence

Fade To Silence Fade To Silence by David Bradwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FADE TO SILENCE is Book 4 in the Anna Burgin Series. I've not read the first three, but I am definitely going to rectify that. I discovered FADE TO SILENCE through a review offer at Hidden Gems Books, and I'm very happy I did. This mystery is engrossing, complicated, and the protagonists, especially fashion photographer Anna, are impressively snarky. The author does dialogue excellently, and even better, crafts terrifically twisty plot lines. Anna and her long-term flatmate/best friend, journalist Danny Churchill, are thrown right into the center of the machinations of disgraced, then reinstated Detective Chief Inspector Graham March of London's Metropolitan Police, a man whose fingers are deep into many criminal pies on a large scale, who has too many corrupt friends in high places, and who holds long grudges. Since Danny's investigative journalism and that of Danny's former superior, Clare Woodbrook, exposed March's machinations, the latter is neither going to forget nor forgive, and soon a series of hardships strike at Danny, the kind of frame that he can't escape and can't expose. Additionally, Clare, who long ago "disappeared" and is kind of an international broker and deal-maker, always covertly, inserts herself again into the lives of Anna and Danny, insisting that the end of the Balkan War (this takes place in 1995) predicts massive influxes of black market weapons into the UK, a nation traditionally relatively free from gun violence (unlike the U.S.)

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Tour_BLACKWELL by Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor

Blackwell by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor


by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor

on Tour February 1 – March 31, 2019


Blackwell by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor "… an intriguing, dark tale complete with vividly drawn characters, and a uniquely compelling character in Magnus … seamlessly blends mystery, magic and matters of the heart to create an enthralling read. Readers will be engaged from the start of the story to its climactic ending." ~Melanie Bates, RT Book Reviews "A dark story of passion and revenge … A guilty-pleasure read that kept me captivated knowing something sinister is looming in the plot and over the characters." ~New Orleans Magazine
In the late 1800s, handsome, wealthy New Englander, Magnus Blackwell, is the envy of all. When Magnus meets Jacob O'Connor–a Harvard student from the working class–an unlikely friendship is forged. But their close bond is soon challenged by a captivating woman; a woman Magnus wants, but Jacob gets. Devastated, Magnus seeks solace in a trip to New Orleans. After a chance meeting with Oscar Wilde, he becomes immersed in a world of depravity and brutality, inevitably becoming the inspiration for Dorian Gray. Armed with the forbidden magic of voodoo, he sets his sights on winning back the woman Jacob stole from him. Amid the trappings of Victorian society, two men, bent on revenge, will lay the foundation for a curse that will forever alter their destinies.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery with Supernatural Elements Published by: Vesuvian Books Publication Date: January 17th 2017 Number of Pages: 295 ISBN: 1944109242 (ISBN13: 9781944109240) Series: A Magnus Blackwell Novel 0.5 Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Blackwell Trailer:


Read an excerpt:

“We all saw different spirits,” Emily surmised. “How is that possible?” Katie rose from Jacob’s side. “We each saw the person we wanted to see. The person we felt most connected to on the other side.” She came around the table to Magnus, grinning like a proud peacock. “Do you still doubt my abilities?” “No.” Magnus blew out a long breath. “I think we should not do this again, though. I got the impression what happened tonight may be only the beginning.” “The beginning of what?” Emily pestered. Magnus straightened his coat as he turned for the door. “Something very dangerous.” *** Excerpt from Blackwell by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor. Copyright © 2017 by Alexandrea Weis. Reproduced with permission from Alexandrea Weis. All rights reserved.

Alexandrea Weis:

Alexandrea Weis Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, CRRN, ONC, PhD, is a multi-award-winning author of over twenty-seven novels, a screenwriter, ICU Nurse, and historian who was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having grown up in the motion picture industry as the daughter of a director, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective and began writing at the age of eight. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story moving and memorable. A permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Weis rescues orphaned and injured animals. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans. Weis writes mysteries, suspense, thrillers, horror, crime fiction, action, historical, and romance. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association. Lucas Astor is from New York, has resided in Central America and the Middle East, and traveled through Europe. He lives a very private, virtually reclusive lifestyle, preferring to spend time with a close-knit group of friends than be in the spotlight. He is an author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but right next door behind a smiling face.

Catch Up With Alexandrea On: alexandreaweis.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

Lucas Astor:

Lucas Astor Lucas Astor is from New York, has resided in Central America and the Middle East, and traveled through Europe. He lives a very private, virtually reclusive lifestyle, preferring to spend time with a close-knit group of friends than be in the spotlight. He is an author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but right next door behind a smiling face. Photography, making wine, and helping endangered species are just some of his interests. Lucas is an expert archer and enjoys jazz, blues, and classical music. One of his favorite quotes is: “It’s better to be silent than be a fool.” ~Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)

My Review:
I admired the attention the co-authors paid to historical detail and references. Examining characters, fashion, architecture, events, even collegiate life at Harvard and Radcliffe, and the underside of New Orleans culture (voodoo and brothels), brought this long-gone era to vivid life. These authors are quite talented at portraying character evolution, or as is the case here, character devolution. I didn't like some of the characters, but their actions and motives certainly did garner and maintain my attention. From the first introduction of Magnus Blackwell as a Harvard freshman, I thought that if only he had been born a century earlier he could have been a charter member of the Hellfire Club. Indeed, the novel's tag line reads: "Hell has a new master," and Blackwell certainly seems to have set out to be just that. But then, his life was the ruination of several other characters, so maybe he should be considered a Pied Piper, affecting adults rather than the children of Hamelin. Certainly if nothing else, his character is memorable, and so are those of Jacob O'Connor, the young student Magnus "adopts" as his pet protege (oh, how well Jacob learned), Oscar Wilde, the infamous English author, a New Orleans voodoo high priestess and brothel owner who ranks right up there with the late Marie Laveau, and all the secondary characters Magnus and Jacob manage to affect. The close attention to detail keeps the reader engrossed, whether or not said reader finds the characters admirable. Like viewing a train wreck, we can't turn away.

Tour Participants:

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Vesuvian Books. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on February 1, 2019 and runs through April 1, 2019. Void where prohibited.
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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Review: The Old Man's Request: Book One of the Utgarda Trilogy

The Old Man's Request: Book One of the Utgarda Trilogy The Old Man's Request: Book One of the Utgarda Trilogy by Joab Stieglitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read four books in the Utgarda series, and I adored them all. So much that is resonant of H. P. Lovecraft and other Weird Fiction of the 1920's and 1930's, of that hopeful yet subconsciously disillusioned era between "the War to end all Wars" and the next, possibly even worse, World War, colours this series. For a lover of History and of Weird Fiction, this is a total delight. The characters are well-delineated, the plot is simultaneously exciting and adventurous. Mr. Stieglitz talentedly paints his monsters and monstrous otherworldly settings. I highly recommend this series, whether or not one is already familiar with the Lovecraft Mythos and classic Weird Fiction of the early 20th century.

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Review: The First Time I Died

The First Time I Died The First Time I Died by Jo Macgregor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"You can't go home again." Sometimes that is very apropos. When Garnet left her tiny Vermont home town, she vowed never to return. She had few reasons to ever do so, and many reasons to stay away. But pressure from her academic advisor, coupled with her mother's transient ischemic attack, finally propel her back to that declining community she left at age eighteen. Quickly she discovers that on the surface the town has very much changed; but under the surface, those powerful and intense undercurrents of secrets and lies are still prevalent, still holding sway. Garnet knows that "you can't go home again" is a principle to live by; or to die by.

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Review: The Auguries

The Auguries The Auguries by F.G. Cottam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd anticipated this novel for quite some time, as I've been following the author's discussions on Twitter. I'd also long been a fan of his work, and now I can state that THE AUGURIES, his newest novel (release 2019) is the best yet. (Though I shall continue to rave over his THE WAITING ROOM.) THE AUGURIES is a champion combination of contemporary London with the sixteenth-century England ruled by a capricious and willful monarch, Henry the Eighth. Mr. Cottam brilliantly showcases both today's culture and the suspicious, gullible, but highly religious society of the 1500's, in England and also in Spain, the Alps, Germany, and the Netherlands. He renders both cultures extremely comprehensible as he utilizes strongly-delineated characters to elicit truths about each era. Then he turns the contemporary portrait upside down and effectively destroys it in an incredibly Apocalyptic, totally implacable, inexplicable and impossible, series of events which defy the laws of physics and Nature, but which nonetheless continue to occur.

If you like your Apocalypse served hot and your historical revenge served cold; if you glory in feats of magic and science and historical research; if you love your characters drawn right down to the bone, with an author's X-ray vision of their truths; then you need to read THE AUGURIES. F. G. Cottam demonstrates mastery indeed.

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Review: The Meadows

The Meadows The Meadows by London Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE MEADOWS is one SCARY novel! The author finely tunes the tension, drawing the reader along to follow the feckless, definitely self-destructive, heroine, an acclaimed songwriter, as she battles her addictions, not very successfully. But the real question becomes: Is she hallucinating from alcohol and controlled substances, or are these apparitions, manifestations, sounds, voices, actually REAL? Is this property, the size of an estate, actually HAUNTED? Or has falling off the wagon after five months simply created sights, sounds, touch, in her mind? Either way, our protagonist is in deep trouble. DEEP trouble. She's sunk about $5 million into buying a property in the scenic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where she studied for her undergraduate degree at Shenandoah University. She intends to renovate, then open the house as a bed-and-breakfast, and attract "leaf peepers," newlyweds, couples celebrating anniversaries, plus businesspersons and corporate "retreats." An admirable goal, one which will not be accomplished unless the house is cleared of its "other" inhabitants; and unless Scarlett can find a way to stop the rising death toll. The house is already notorious for mass murders occurring in 1986, including paranormal elements, and had been abandoned for over 30 years. Scarlett is trapped between a rock and a hard place, and possibly there may be no earthly solution.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Tour_DANGEROUS FLAWS by Susan Hunter

Dangerous Flaws

by Susan Hunter

on Tour February 1 - March 31, 2019


A chilling murder shocks a small Wisconsin town.

True crime writer Leah Nash is stunned when police investigating the murder of a beautiful young college professor focus on her ex-husband Nick. Leah has no illusions about her ex, but despite his flaws, she just can’t see him as a killer. Reluctantly, she agrees to help Nick’s attorney prove that he isn’t.

But Nick’s lies make it hard to find the truth, and when a damning piece of evidence surfaces, Leah plunges into doubt. Is she defending an innocent man or helping a murderer escape? She pushes on to find out, uncovering hidden motives and getting hit by twists she never saw coming. Leah’s own flaws impede her search for the truth. When she finds it, will it be too late to prevent a devastating confrontation?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Himmel River Press
Publication Date: December 11th 2018
Number of Pages: 392
Series: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 5
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

How did everything go so wrong? But then again, why did she ever think that this could come to anything but disaster? She knows now there are only a few ways this can end and none of them are good.

She sighs, then bends down to put the leash on Tenny, her crazy little mixed-breed dog, looking up at her with big brown eyes. He’s so happy and so oblivious. Despite her sense of coming catastrophe, she can’t help smiling at him. He begins wagging his tail, then dancing around eagerly in anticipation of his nightly run. She can barely get the leash hooked.

“Come on, then, you heartless beast. I’m in the worst situation of my life, and all you can think about is getting out and having fun. Tell me again why I bother with you?”

They leave and walk down the road—no sidewalks here—toward the county fairgrounds, an expanse of 80 acres just a short distance away. She loves the odd mix of town on one side of her home and country on the other.

She shivers a little. Her exhaled breath leaves a small trace of vapor in the air. Under the silvery light of the full moon, everything stands out in crystalline splendor: the piles of snow left by the plow, untouched yet by the dirt and grime of passing cars; bare branches of trees shimmering with frost; the stars themselves, flashing and glittering like sparkling beads sewn on the black night sky. It is incredibly beautiful. But she barely notices. She is too lost in thought.

Should she do as she threatened, confess and bring everything to a head? If she does, there’s no going back. And she isn’t the only one who will suffer—or be saved. Because isn’t it possible that freedom, not tragedy, will be the outcome? Things do, sometimes, turn out better than we expect. She feels a momentary spark of optimism, but it fades. This is too important for wishful thinking. She must be realistic. Once the truth is out, the consequences will be devastating. But this—the way she’s living now, lying, denying, pretending that everything is fine—is crushing her. So intent is she on her thoughts that she doesn’t hear the crunch of footsteps behind her.

Doesn’t notice the increasing agitation of her little dog. Doesn’t recognize the impending danger.

“I finally caught up with you.”

Startled, but not alarmed—she recognizes the voice—she turns.

“What are you doing here?”

“We didn’t finish. I need to know you understand.”

She doesn’t want to have this conversation. Not tonight. Not when her mind is so filled with jumbled and conflicting thoughts. Her reluctance shows on her face.

“You said you want to do the right thing. I do too, but you’re wrong about what it is. Please, let’s talk.”

“Tomorrow would be better. I—”

“No! It wouldn’t be!”

The words are said with such force that she takes an involuntary step backward. Tenny growls softly at her side.

“I’m sorry. But we’re talking about my life! Don’t I deserve a few minutes at least? I’ll walk with you. Please?”

She sighs. But now Tenny is pulling at his leash, eager to run free on the frozen surface of the pond.

“All right.” She slips off her gloves and bends down to release the dog. Her cold fingers fumble and his eager jumping makes it hard work. He spies something on the ice and springs forward with excitement. Both the collar and the leash come loose in her hands, and he dashes away.

She tucks them into her pocket as she stands. It’s then that she notices the barricades around a large hole in the frozen pond.

“I forgot about the Polar Plunge tomorrow. Let’s go that way, in case Tenny gets too close. The barriers should keep him out, but he’s a wily little devil.”

They walk around the edge of the pond. She is silent; she doesn’t interrupt. But she isn’t persuaded. Her focus turns inward, as she searches for the right words to explain. All the while she knows they will be unwelcome. As she struggles for a way to be both truthful and kind, she misses the rising tension in her companion’s voice. She doesn’t register the transition from desperation to danger.

A loud series of barks causes her to look up. Tenny is chasing a muskrat across the ice. Both of them are heading toward the barrier-shielded hole in the frozen pond. For the muskrat, it will mean escape. For Tenny, it will mean calamity.

“Tenny, no! Come here!” She runs out on the ice, calling him, moving as fast as she can on the slippery surface, trying to distract the dog. But intent on his prey, he ignores her. He dashes under the barricade just as the muskrat slips into the water to safety. Tenny slides to a stop, gives a few frustrated yips, then turns toward her. His expression clearly says, “Thanks a lot. I almost had him.”

She reaches the edge of the barricade and pushes it aside, holding out the leash and collar.

“Tennyson, come here right now.”

He makes as if to obey, but when she leans to get him, he scampers away. She calls him again.

He comes tantalizingly close, then eludes her grasp and retreats with a cocky grin on his face.

He likes this game.

She sets the collar and leash down on the ice. She gets on one knee and reaches in her pocket.

When her hand emerges, it’s holding a dog treat. In a honeyed, coaxing voice, she says, “Hey, Tenny. Look, sweetie! Your favorite, cheesy bacon.”

She stays very still as he approaches. When he gets within range, she intends to scoop him up, scold him, and never let him off the leash again. He moves slowly, maintaining eye contact with the treat, not her. She stretches her hand out ever so slightly. He streaks forward, snatches it from her open palm, and runs away across the pond. Then his attention is caught by a deer just reaching the middle of the ice. He gives chase.

She sighs with relief. At least he’s away from the open water. She starts to rise. Without warning, a strong shove from behind sends her sprawling. Her head hits the ice. She’s dazed for a second. Then terrified as another shove pushes her forward and into the hole cut in the pond.

The shock of hitting the water takes her breath away. The weight of her clothes pulls her down.

She struggles back to the surface, disoriented and confused. Her breathing is shallow and quick—too quick.

She swallows a mouthful of water and starts to choke. Panic rises. Her arms flail.

One hits something hard. The edge of the ice. Her fright lessens as she can see a way out.

She works her body around so she can grab the icy lip of the opening in the pond. She begins to move her legs, stretching out as though she were floating on her stomach. As she transitions from vertical to horizontal, she’s able to get one forearm on the ice. She tries to lift her knee. If she can get it on the ice—she’s too weak. The weight of her water-logged clothes pulls her back into the water. She feels the panic rising again. She pushes back against it with her desperate determination to survive.

She tries again, kicks her legs again, stretches out again, gets her forearms on the ice again.

But this time, she doesn’t try to lift herself. Instead, she begins to inch forward with a writhing motion, like a very slow snake crawling on the ground. She fights for every awkward, painful inch of progress. How long has it been? Five minutes? Ten? Twenty? It feels like forever.

Her arms are numb. Tiny icicles in her hair slap gently against her face as she twists and turns her body out of the water. Tenny is nearby. He’s barking, and then he’s by her left arm, tugging at her sleeve.

“No, no, Tenny, get back.” She thinks she is shouting, but the words are a whisper. She has to rest, just for a minute. She stops. She closes her eyes. But as her cheek touches the ice, Tenny’s bark calls her back to life. She will not give up. She will not die this way, this night.

Again, she begins her hesitating progress forward. She can do this. She will do this. Almost her entire upper body is on the ice now. Just a little longer, just a few more inches, just another—hands grab her shoulders. Someone has come. Someone is pulling her to safety. As she turns her head to look up, she realizes the hands aren’t pulling, they’re pushing, pushing, pushing her back.

No, no, no, no! She tries to fight, but she has nothing left. She’s in the water.

The hands lock onto her shoulders like talons. They push her down, down, down. Water enters her mouth; her throat closes over. She can’t breathe. The last sound she hears from far, far away is Tenny’s mournful bark. Then darkness closes in.

*** Excerpt from Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter. Copyright © 2018 by Susan Hunter. Reproduced with permission from Susan Hunter. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Susan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting.

Susan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers, and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words.

During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, looking for clues, stopping for a meal at the Elite Cafe, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain's Bar and Grill.

Catch Up With Ms. Hunter On: leahnashmysteries.com, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

Dangerous Flaws: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 5Dangerous Flaws: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 5 by Susan Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adore Susan Hunter's Leah Nash Mysteries. Every book is jam-packed with suspense and tension, danger, deeply delineated characters, and the hardrock passion for uncovering truth possessed by driven investigative journalist (now true crime author) Leah Nash. Leah's newspaper, The Himmel Times, is now co-owned by Lisa and her landlord, Miller, local attorney and man of wealth. Following the open house for the newspaper, a college professor disappears while walking her beloved dog Tennyson, whose return home alerts the victim's husband, also a professor. Eventually the missing woman is discovered, but investigating her case will take Leah down some very rough emotional paths and cast her frequently in danger as well as into conflict with those for whom she cares most. Always a page-turner, DANGEROUS FLAWS keeps readers pinned to the edge of their seats.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Review: Sophie Last Seen

Sophie Last Seen Sophie Last Seen by Marlene Adelstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although a mysteries lies at the heart of this psychological thriller (the disappearance of a young girl six years while shopping with her mother at a mall), the power and impact of the story comes in the character evolution. The main characters for me were Jesse, the bereaved and always grieving mother, and Star, once small Sophie's best friend, now an adolescent going through the usual adolescent turmoil plus trying to find her own way in the world and out of the parents' nest. There is also character evolution revealed in secondary characters, such as Sophie's father, who is mostly but not completely backstage. Author Marlene Adelstein digs deeply into her characters, even when they are less likable than we would hope.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Review: Don't Forget To Breathe

Don't Forget To Breathe Don't Forget To Breathe by Cathrina Constantine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Leocadia (Leo) discovers her mother's mutilated corpse in the master bedroom one day after school, Leo's world and her dad's collapses. Neither can scarcely function, but sometimes life is just a matter of survival, of placing one foot in front of the other and staying upright. Dad dissolves into weepiness and paranoia about Leo's whereabouts, while Leo resorts to controlled substances, and the friendship of a strange new neighbor named Henry, whom no one else really likes. After a year, a slight glimmer of light might be coming into Leo's life, till she discovers suddenly that she's not in control of deciding between reality and fantasy, she doesn't know what is illusion, Henry is acting really strangely; and suddenly, more corpses are turning up, too close to home. Something is going on and since her mother's murderer was never discovered, Leo and her father are terrified that that killer has returned. For whom?

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Review: As It Never Was

As It Never Was As It Never Was by Bo Thunboe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This engrossing and painful mystery is guaranteed to tear out a reader's heart, unless your heart is made of ice, or metal, or nonexistent. Definitely 18+ for subject matter. However, the author keeps the "details" off stage, but reading between the lines is enough. Detective Jake Houser of Weston, Illinois, is back on stage with this trademark dedication to justice and to perseverance in search of the truth. He is tasked by a couple, Paul and Linda Siebert, to look into the disappearance seven years earlier of their son, Mark. This is to be an off-side investigation, one involving Jake's own intellect and resources, not the Weston Police Department. A young man has visited the Sieberts to tell Linda that Mark is still alive. Jake assumes it's a con, but one played out as a long-shot, after seven years. That would have been grief enough, but the truth is so much worse, and so much wider-ranging. What Jake uncovers is shocking, disturbing, and unfortunately, a reflection of contemporary crime and immorality.

Author Bo Thunboe is again at the top of his form with this third in his Jake Houser mystery series, a series not to be missed if a reader wishes to be totally engrossed, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally.

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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Review: Stoker's Wilde

Stoker's Wilde Stoker's Wilde by Steven Hopstaken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How I adore this novel! Couched in journal entries, transcripts of recordings, and letters from various and sundry individuals as collected by the Royally-appointed "White Worm Society" (named I assume for Bram Stoker's delightful LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, this Society was instituted by Queen Victoria to protect the realm from supernatural incursions and other monsters), STOKER'S WILDE is immensely entertaining and engrossing, whether you are an aficionado of literary fiction and authors, the supernatural and paranormal, or just great characterization and characters that spark flame just from their constant tension and friction, you're going to find something to admire here. Co-authors Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi bring this late-Victorian era, in Dublin, London, and Salisbury, briskly and beautifully alive. I learned so much about Bram Stoker, his wife Florence, and Oscar Wilde (and his brother and widowed mother), as well as Captain Richard Burton. The Victorian Era is one of my favourites (and it goes without saying that Stoker is a favoured author), so this novel was an utter delight. I thoroughly resonated with the characters, and marveled at the revelations and denouements of the twisting plot lines.

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