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Loving Lady Lazuli – A Book Review

I do most of my reading in the early morning hours between two and four a.m. So since I’m sacrificing valuable sleep to engage in my absolute favorite pastime – reading – I want to make sure the book is really, really good. And I’m happy to share I’ve only had a few misses. Most of the stories I’ve read this year have been great, enjoyable, recommendable. As is the case with Loving Lady Lazuli by Shehanne Moore.

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When you have a story where the heroine has a wicked background and the hero, too, there are soooooo many interesting ways the story can work itself out. So many interesting ways for the characters to grow and change…or not. So many interesting ways to put a nice, red bow on the ending. And that’s exactly what Moore has done: created an interesting story that is ripe with potential and the fulfillment of expectation; one that doesn’t disappoint.

Page three puts the main characters—Devorlane Hawley and Sapphire—in a forced encounter, which we quickly learn is not a first for them. Their attraction is rekindled immediately, and readers, hold on to your e-readers because it goes fast from there. In the next few hundred pages, there’s lies, sex, betrayal, bloodshed, sex, conditions, misunderstandings, sex and finally, love (breathy sigh!).

I won’t spoil your enjoyment by sharing story details but I do want to point out that this is a historical fiction novel. Moore expertly blends English customs, various dialects, and factual points of history into the telling of the tale. All combined, it adds even more depth to a story pregnant with strong story conflict, a cast of savory and unsavory secondary characters, humor, and an ending to please.

You’ll be glad you read this one and here’s an additional bonus (drum roll!)…it’s book one in the London Jewel Thieves series. That means there are more gems (characters and books) to come.

Loving Lady Lazuli is a creatively-thrilling and engaging read. I hope you’ll join me on this wickedly jeweled reading adventure.

To learn more about Moore and additional titles she’s written, click here.

Happy reading and happy holidays!

Halloween Reading

In about three weeks, one of my favorite holidays occurs–Halloween. Naturally, it’s a favorite because I am a paranormal/supernatural writer. Naturally, it’s a favorite because I am a paranormal/supernatural reader. So considering all this, I thought it appropriate, not to mention fun, to feature a paranormal book this week. I choose…

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Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

by Charles F. French

The paranormal/supernatural genre chose me through weird circumstances so I am always curious how other authors fell into this particular genre. I posed this question to Charles and his response is below. I hope you find it as revealing and interesting as I did.

Why I Write Horror, Paranormal, and Speculative Fictioncharles-french-maledicustee

“I am Charles F. French, a writer of speculative fiction, including horror, paranormal, and young adult fiction. I have had an interest in the genres of Gothic, horror, and science-fiction since I was a youngster. As a young teen, I read Dracula by Bram Stoker and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and these books immediately appealed to my youthful imagination.

I continued reading works in these genres throughout my life, including in my academic studies, as well as for pleasure. Now I teach some of these books in various courses as an adjunct professor at Muhlenberg College and Lehigh University.

One of the great strengths of books in these genres is that their authors are able to make social critiques about their real worlds but offer them as metaphor in the fictional environment. The plots capture the readers’ attention but then often go deeper into discussions of life and societal concerns. Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein, deals with such issues as limits of scientific research, abandonment of children, the position of women in the 19th Century, and justice/injustice.

While I am not placing my writing on the level of Mary Shelley, I hope that I both create a compelling story and also include important themes. It is in the writing of speculative fiction that I can work simultaneously on both creating interesting plot and characters but also speak to matters that I find important about the world. But always, story comes first. If the piece is not interesting, if I lose the reader, then nothing else will succeed.

I believe that in Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, I have created a novel that will capture the readers’ interest and imagination and also aid them in considering important thematic issues.”

I am in total agreement with Charles’ thoughts on writing and reading paranormal/supernatural fiction, and am pleased to feature his book. If it’s been a while since you’ve indulged in a paranormal read I can think of no better time than now, what with Charles’ new book and Halloween. Click here to purchase your copy. Go on, I dare you!

Conflicted Hearts – A Book Review

Conflicted Hearts by D. G. Kaye is the latest book I’ve read, enjoyed and reviewed.

 

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Conflicted Hearts is a memoir — well-written, emotional and full of life lessons that we can all embrace. It chronicles the highlights (and lowlights) of Kaye’s life as she moves from co-dependence to freedom; from duty and obligation to healthy choice; from emotional insecurity to a solid emotional base; from fractured to wholeness.

The story begins with Kaye as a child, a product of a two parent home with a loving dad and a less loving mother. I believe there is no other relationship more powerful and influential than that of mother and child (unless one is blessed to find their soul mate and of course setting aside the relationship we have with ourselves and our Spiritual Deity.). Get that relationship wrong and it can negatively impact a life, which it did in Kaye’s case. Or at least it did until as a young adult she realized the hazards of maintaining an off-balanced relationship and took appropriate means to restore herself. dg-kayeKaye used two major means to counter the effects of her mom’s early influence. She journaled to identify and understand her mom’s issues and how they impacted her, and she surrounded herself with honest friendships. People who told her the truth, who supported her, cared for, inspired and encouraged her. If not for those means, I’m thinking the ending would not have showcased a woman as balanced, purposed, strong and emotionally stable as Kaye.

I found this a bittersweet read. One likes to think all moms are natural caregivers, giving priority to their children. But Conflicted Hearts reminds us that not all women who birth children want to be or should be mothers. That’s the bitter part. Thankfully we have the sweet…where Kaye overcomes her childhood neglect to lead a productive, loving life. That’s not only sweet but encouraging for all.

In addition to being bitter and sweet, I found this an emotional read. Because Kaye withheld little in the sharing of her overcomer’s journey, we feel her anguish, her fear, her joys, and tension. We are there with her when she ends toxic relationships. We feel her pain when she goes through illness and uncertainty. We share her happiness when she learns to love and prioritize herself. We feel joy when a good-hearted, caring man enters her life. In the telling, she gives full access to her heart, mind and emotions, displaying at the end, her strength and wholeness.

October is a month where we recognize a number of issues related to women (cancer awareness, domestic violence awareness, baby loss and mental illness awareness, etc.) and I can think of no better month to buy and read this book. It just seems fitting for the focus on women and the issues buffeting us. Besides, what better month to show off such an attractive cover!

This book is worth your reading time. Buy it. Read it. Be blessed.

Book Review – Not by Design

Not by Design “Not by Design” is the latest offering from multi-published women’s fiction author Carol Balawyder. It is a sequel to “Getting to Mr. Right,” which you should read if you haven’t. “Getting to Mr. Right” is the story of four women who meet at a support group (the focus of which is women who have men/father issues) and form lasting, sincere friendships.

“Not by Design” is Felicity Starr’s story. She is one of the women in the support group, and she has it all—looks, youth, a rich father, talent, true-heart friends and the love of a handsome, successful man. She is living a fairy tale life in France, studying art and pursuing a career in art, while enjoying an active social/love life. But even fairy tales are wrought with obstacles and that’s exactly what our heroine encounters—one setback after another. There’s the death of her father, a dwindling bank account which brings on financial woes, an art career that has stalled, and the painful decision to end her relationship with her fiancé and call off the wedding. But that’s not all. The biggest blow of all—a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). With all this dumped on her, Felicity makes the hard decision to release her dream of being an artist and living in France. She returns home to Canada to try and piece a life together.

The move back home is met with more bitterness. She fights to recover her reputation in the work world. She has disagreements with her mother and step-mother. She gambles on several romantic interests and loses. And, she must make a slew of difficult choices in regard to her living arrangements and medical treatment, decisions made more difficult because of her limited funds. One wonders if Felicity will ever catch a break when…help arrives. At the strong suggestion of her doctor, she attends a MS support group meeting and finds the support and acceptance she so desperately needs. With the encouragement of the group, she shares her medical condition with her friends, who surround her with love, care and acceptance. The end of the story details the good life Felicity has finally secured. No, it’s not the one she would have designed for herself, but it works. She’s happy.

This is a story that will take you low on the scale of human emotions and then pick you up. You will feel despair, then happiness; fear, then joy. This emotional seesaw is achieved in part by the story’s conflict—dreams and desire versus medical and financial worries, a situation many readers may relate to. I certainly did. And then there’s the overall story question: are we willing to release our version of our dream or life in exchange for an uncertain version? This is the question Felicity struggles with throughout the story but I dare say it is one many readers struggle with as well.

There are many things to appreciate about this story. It is inspiring, well written and has relatable characters. But the one aspect I appreciated the most was the focus on MS. Reading about the symptoms, the various treatments, the expense, and how it requires life adjustments was a real education. Thank you Carol for that.

I finished reading the book and shut down my e-reader thinking, I can’t wait to read the remaining sequel. The other three—“Café Paradise,” “Missi’s Dating Adventures” and “Not by Design”—have been purely enjoyable. Check ‘em out and see for yourself.

Dream Fulfilled

Two sisters, Deanna and Christine loved reading. They both loved books. They both were creative and savvy businesswomen. They shared the same dream:  own a bookstore.

After years of planning and dreaming; wishing and toiling, it happened. In June 2015, the sisters opened Dog Eared Books in Weatherford, Texas.

I was fortunate to visit their store this past weekend and I hope one day you can visit it too because it is fabulous. Very well organized. Seemingly every genre represented on the shelves. Comfortable seating and refreshments. Creative displays. Fair pricing and trade policy. Wide selection of new and used books. Plus, movies and music for all.

In just a few short months, the sisters have already anchored Dog Eared as more than a bookstore (not that there’s anything wrong with being simply a bookstore). It is a community center; one that hosts education sessions, children’s activities and book signings. That’s how I met the sisters. I was invited to participate in the store’s first Paranormal Book Signing to kick off the Halloween season.

And what a time we had! …speaking with young readers, meeting fans of the genre, reading the store’s educational display, meeting other like-minded authors, and the conversations… Where else but at a paranormal book signing can there be in-depth discussion on time travel, fairies, banned books, gravity, ghosts, movies, Elvis, pumpkin spice coffee, book cover colors, cake balls and more?

I am already looking forward to October 2016 for the second annual Paranormal Book Signing. I hope I get invited back (after that third cup of pumpkin spiced coffee, I did get a little hyped, meaning, I could not stay in my seat), but even if I’m not on the roster, I’m attending because the hospitality, the staff, the owners, the book selections were just that special.

Below are a few of the pics I managed to snap in between sipping coffee, browsing shelves and signing books. Silly me forgot to get a pic of the sisters who birthed this dream oasis on Main Street (Where else? Every town needs a bookstore on Main Street.), but enjoy just the same.

Dog Eared Books 3 Dog Eared Books 4 Dog Eared BooksDog Eared Books 2

Justice True, Crime Fighting Vamp

A few months ago, I was in Bowie, Texas as part of the Texas Writes program. Texas Writes sends published authors to rural libraries throughout Texas to conduct workshops on writing. These libraries and their patrons don’t normally receive instructional workshops because of budgetary constraints. When I learned this, I jumped at the opportunity to present a workshop on editing. It was great fun! The librarian was so welcoming and I met so many talented writers and authors.

One of the authors I met was Dianna M. Castro. I enjoyed conversing with all of the authors and writers but particularly Dianna because we both write in the paranormal genre. Her novels feature vampires; mine, spirits. When I learned Dianna had a published book I rushed to buy it and just recently finished reading it.

Below is the review I wrote on her book, Forever Justice. If you’re looking for a vampire story to read as a warm-up to Halloween (it is less than five weeks away), this is the one.

Forever Justice by Dianna M. Castro

…is the story of vampire, Justice True who has been around for centuries and throughout those centuries has worked as a U.S. Marshal. She mostly works serial killer cases as well as violent, sexual crimes, and has a stellar arrest/conviction record. In this story, we follow Justice as she investigates three deviants who are committing ruthless, bloody murders, targeting women and children. As if that isn’t enough stress, she is also searching for the “master” vampire who bit her, turning her into a vampire against her will, so she can kill him.

I was immediately hooked into the story with the author’s portrayal of how Justice was “turned.” There was good description, strong characterization and equally strong rationale (internal conflict). However, as I continued reading, moving from Justice’s past to the present, I discovered that her vampire life paled (no pun intended) significantly. It was greatly overshadowed by her criminal investigations, which resulted in a story that did not have enough balance or tense, suspenseful conflict to make it a page turner. Yes, there were scenes that snagged me (usually when tracking the criminals), but I wanted more conflict between protagonist (Justice) and antagonist (Alexander). In addition, I wanted to learn more about her vampire sect, the movements and background of Alexander, his family, etc. Knowing more about her opponent and pitting them against each other would have created amazing page-turning conflict. I will say though that the crime storyline was developed well enough to make the book worthy of finishing.

Forever JusticeA variety of cast members gave this story added dimension. A bevy of law enforcement officials were offset by ordinary citizens–senior citizens, teenagers, victims, family members, regular Joes, etc.–a diverse group that provided moments of laughter and awww. I was bothered by the naming of her second string characters though. In most cases, their names were a direct correlation to their profession, an obvious character trait, or a situation the character was in. This practice I found too obvious.

The author was, however, creative in how she handled the conventions of the vampire culture. I was curious how she was going to handle a law enforcement officer working nights when the bulk of criminal investigations takes place during the day. She did an excellent job of answering this and other questions related to travel, sunlight, garlic, drinking blood, invitations to enter a home or business, biting, physical strength, turning friends and family into vampires, and her long tenured career.

I must warn you…this is not a book for the weak of heart, mind or stomach. There are a number of gritty scenes and the details are disturbing.

When I finished the book, I felt like this could be a series and I do believe the protagonist’s strength and enough crime (unfortunately) exists to sustain a series. However to embark on a series, the author will have to strengthen the supporting cast and ramp up the tension.

Paranormal readers who enjoy a good vampire story…this one is for you.

September / Fall / Love / Giveaways

Finally, September…septemberMy favorite of all months.
I love September for it ushers in Fall.
I love September for offering a three-day respite from labor.
I love September for serving as a pre-cursor to the holidays -soon to come.
I love September for its religious significance; a reminder to fast and pray.
I love that it teases us with thoughts of egg nog ice cream and pumpkin muffins.
I love that within its dates fall the state fair and the PV/Grambling football game.
I love that it’s the ninth month (an indication of completion).
I love that it’s my birth month!
September is so sweet and so is Fall…
My favorite of all seasons.
I love the cooler temperatures.
I love the cooler fashions.
I love having the option of writing indoors or out.
I love the vibrant colors—the reds, oranges, browns, yellows, blacks and whites.
I love replacing manufactured air with God’s air.
I love the magnolia cones that litter my yard
And the pecan shells that stain my driveway.
I love the sound of the high school marching band; practice session ended but echoing notes still fill my street.
Finally, Fall…

To celebrate the arrival finally of two of my loves, September and Fall, I am giving stuff away!
Well, not stuff; rather, books. Lyrical Darkness to be exact. Three copies.

If you’d like a chance to win one of my love gifts, simply email me at afields121@yahoo.com by September 30th. Use the subject line “Happy Birthday.” (Don’t worry. If you forget to use that subject line, I’ll still scour my Inbox for entries.) At midnight on the 30th, I will toss all email addresses in a basket, draw out three and send the winners an ebook version of Lyrical Darkness. It’s just that simple!

NOTE: If you’d like to improve your chances of winning or would prefer a hard copy (instead of ebook), visit Goodreads where I am running a parallel giveaway that begins on September 6th.

Enjoy September!

Enjoy Fall!

Enjoy Reading!