Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a #shortstory by Jan Sikes – Satin and Cinders. This is a sweet love story between a privileged horse and a wild stallion.
I’m currently halfway through another of Jan’s books, as well as an historical fiction memoir and a book about NLP therapy, but I wanted to put up a last review before I take a blogging break later this week, and pulled up this sweet short story on my BFK. I’m looking forward to a timeout and a readathon on the beach – in between having actual conversations with human beings.
A wild black stallion has cautiously watched a beautiful white mare, from the safety of the forest for many years. He longs to be with her, and ventures close to the barn nightly to communicate with her. They share their deepest desires and secrets. Now it is winter, and the rest of the wild herd has moved on, but the stallion stays. He cannot stand the thought of being so far away from her. The scent of sweet alfalfa hay and the enticing lure of the white mare is too much for him. He must find a way to be with her. But will it be worth the risk? Satin and Cinders is a story of courage and determination.
My 5 Star Review:
This was a sweet love story about two horses in love. This story could have been about any two people, but it’s about a beautiful mare, Satin, and the wild black stallion, Cinders, who are in love and separated by living standards and a fence. Cinders narrates. The author does a wonderful job of bringing the emotions to life and writing about the horse’s thoughts, inviting us into their story. An equine love story with a human feel.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. This week’s featured book is for Stevie Turner’s novella – Scam! A story that will keep you engaged until the end. This story showcases just how easily people are sucked into scams.
Lauren West and Ben Hughes are saving frantically for their forthcoming marriage and mortgage deposit. When Lauren sees an advert online from a firm of brokers extolling the profits to be gained by buying and selling Bitcoins, she is interested enough to pursue it further.
Lauren clicks on the advert. She is soon contacted by Paul Cash, a knowledgeable stockbroker whom Lauren trusts straight away. He is affable, plausible, and seemingly genuinely interested in her welfare. Lauren looks forward to making enough money to be able to surprise Ben and bring the date of their wedding forward, and also to put a deposit down on their ideal house.
What could possibly go wrong?
My Five Star Review:
I enjoy Turner’s women’s fiction stories and Scam!, held me captive to the very end. This story demonstrates just how vulnerable people are to the savvy tech scammers.
Lauren and Ben, both teachers, are saving to buy their own home, in the meantime, they are living with Ben’s parents. Lauren is eager to get her own home as she feels stifled and judged all the time by Ben’s mother. Lauren thinks she’s struck gold when she finds an online opportunity to invest in Bitcoin. The problem is, her and Ben have worked hard to save the $20 K so far for a deposit on a new home, and this opportunity looked tempting to double her money quickly. Lauren is sure everything looks legit and decides to take the plunge without telling Ben because she wants to surprise him when she makes the money – a sure thing says Paul ‘Cash’, her online stockbroker.
What could go wrong is a loaded question. This may be a novella, but as usual, this author knows how to pack in a lot of suspense in her short stories. I do not want to give out spoilers here, so I will just say that a simple scam turns into way more than just the scam itself, escalating into burglary and even murder. That should be enough to tempt. At approximately 100 pages this story reads fast because there’s always something happening, making it hard to put down and not difficult to read in one sitting.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a book I came across that immediately grabbed my attention – Widowish: A Memoir by Melissa Gould. I thought the title was attention grabbing, and as a new widow myself, I felt compelled to read to see why the title had an ‘ish’ attached, it had me curious as to the meaning – did ‘ish’ mean kind of a widow? Sometimes a widow? So I dug in to discover and you will discover my findings in my review below.
With over 5000, 4 1/2 star ratings, I can certainly appreciate this woman’s journey of grief, confusion, guilt, and ultimately, finding happiness on her journey.
Melissa Gould’s hopeful memoir of grieving outside the box and the surprising nature of love.
When Melissa Gould’s husband, Joel, was unexpectedly hospitalized, she could not imagine how her life was about to change. Overwhelmed with uncertainty as Joel’s condition tragically worsened, she offered him the only thing she could: her love and devotion. Her dedication didn’t end with his death.
Left to resume life without her beloved husband and raise their young daughter on her own, Melissa soon realized that her and Joel’s love lived on. Melissa found she didn’t fit the typical mold of widowhood or meet the expectations of mourning. She didn’t look like a widow or act like a widow, but she felt like one. Melissa was widowish.
Melissa’s personal journey through grief and beyond includes unlikely inspiration from an evangelical preacher, the calming presence of some Real Housewives, and the unexpected attention of a charming musician.
A modern take on loss, Widowish illuminates the twists of fate that break our world, the determination that keeps us moving forward, and the surprises in life we never see coming.
My Four Star Review:
Amazon alerted me to this book on sale and as a new younger widow myself, I felt drawn to it. I could identify with so much of what Melissa had lived through. We read many books and stories about love and loss, but their meanings somehow give us a heftier impact when we have walked in the shoes.
Melissa’s world comes to a shocking stumble when her husband’s health takes a turn for the worse and has to come to terms with the loss of her loving husband Joel. She often finds herself not believing her husband is dead and it’s her friends that help her through the transition through widowhood. While her love is undying for her husband and some months have passed, Melissa finds herself conflicted as she discovers she’s having feelings for a family friend, a fellow musician, Marcos, from her husband’s circles. Joel was a musician and Marcos also performs guitar, along with all his other do good ventures – helping homeless, teaching guitar, and more. The friendship between Melissa and Marcos strengthens after Melissa asked Marcos to help sell Joel’s guitar collection.
Through Melissa’s journey of grief, she takes comfort in the signs she believes she receives from Joel – signs that come from odd places – songs, a preacher named Joel, and television Housewives. These signs give her comfort in knowing Joel is around and wants her to be happy.
Upon one of her meet ups with Marcos, Melissa begins to feel an attraction for him, and the feeling is mutual. Melissa goes through the conflicting part about still feeling married to someone who is no longer on earth and a struggle to move forward with her life, even though she feels terrified of her guilt for doing so. Her paranoia ensues between her feelings for Marco and her guilt for having those feelings, feeling as though she is betraying Joel. She elaborates on all the new ‘firsts’ in her life without her husband, the chores she inherited, the important dates that passed – holidays, birthdays, her daughter’s graduation and more. Melissa carries all her feelings while journeying through her new life alone, worrying about how her daughter and others would eventually accept her endeavoring into a new relationship. Her person craved the company and conversation while in doing so, the guilt within her for doing so plagued her. Her dilemma was her own guilt and worrying about what others would say about her in a new relationship. She didn’t want people to think just because she was trying to move forward that she didn’t miss or love her husband anymore. There are no rules about when someone is ready to move on after loss and Melissa worried that she was disappointing people by dating someone nine months after burying her husband, especially her daughter. She felt as though people were judging her for not showing her sadness and going on with her life despite her grief and the unvarnished love she would always hold for Joel.
I felt I got to know Melissa and Marcos better than any description paid to Joel and their daughter Sophie, but in all fairness, although the story was built upon Joel’s passing it’s really about Melissa’s journey through the event and her transition through grief. A relatable read for those of us who have loved and lost and an inside look at the struggles of grief and how it affects us, for those who’ve never walked in the shoes.
“Grief was my constant companion who occasionally took naps.”
“I wanted to get to the other side of my grief, not stay in it forever.”
“There’s no rhyme or reason to grief, when it hits you, it hits you.”
Most powerful statement that vibrated within me was when Melissa said that she could finally stop envisioning her husband sick and dying, she could envision him how he truly was at his best. I still await that day.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I have a sweet review for a recent #Newrelease by Frank Prem – A Lake Sambell Walk. Frank is known for his free-verse poetry and in this book he has created a picture book to accompany his observational prose.
A Lake Sambell Walk is a stroll around the iconic man-made lake that lies at the heart of historically significant Beechworth, Victoria (Australia).
The lake was created by gold miners of the 19th century washing away the soil in their wild search for gold at the height of the gold rush era.
Today, the lake is a beautiful setting for fish and ducks and dabchicks (grebes).
Join Frank Prem for pleasant armchair stroll in A Lake Sambell Walk.
Welcome to Beechworth!
My 5 Star Review:
As a lover of free-verse poetry, I’ve enjoyed several of this author’s books. A Lake Sambell Walk is another of Prem’s beautiful poetry books where he shares a walk along the lake and the intricate thoughts and memories the scenery evokes, accompanied by serene images inspired by the author’s words and observations. A once fervent mission to discover gold took place on this man-made Lake Sambell in Australia, now a tranquil lake where the writer visits and takes in the scenery as his conscience absorbs the sights and sounds of the surrounding nature as he shares his vision from his observations in this lovely book of picture poetry, using crisp and short prose to evoke a bigger picture.
The corresponding image to this poem evokes a tangled web of tree branches and hope:
through your tangled
self . . .
the blue sky
it is yours
you take it
that is yours
The corresponding image evokes a lonely, lost pair of gloves abandoned atop a fence:
gloved by no one
was it cold
last night . . .
warm today . . .
there is no one
My Sunday Book Review is for Staci Troilo’s new short story – No Such Luck. This story is a prequel to an upcoming book Staci is writing. Do you believe in good luck charms? Piper surely does, and ultimately learns her superstition about the red carnation would lead to an awakening.
Seeds of luck usually wither. The rare one grows and blooms.
Piper Seidel has one thing going for her—a red carnation given to her by Tommy Burnett in the tenth grade. It might have dried over the years, but it’s still her good luck charm. Losing it sets her life in a downward spiral, forcing her to return to her hometown where she comes face to face with her high school crush.
The years have been kind to Tommy, who looks better than ever. Unfortunately, Piper is at her worst, continually embarrassing herself whenever he’s around. The only plus? Her long-time friend, Jack Rhodes, still lives in town. Since she last saw him, his legs have grown longer, his biceps thicker, and his shoulders broader. He was always the brother she never had, but now she can’t help noticing him in an unsisterly way. Jack is every bit as caring as he’s ever been—until her bad luck drives him away, maybe forever.
Piper needs a new good luck charm, and fast, before she loses her final chance at happiness.
My 5 Star Review:
This was a sweet short young romance story. Piper’s life isn’t going well, and when she gets fired from her job in Arkansas, decides to head home to Philadelphia for a timeout and figure out what she wants to do next. She’s also pissed that someone packed up her desk for her and threw out her ‘good luck charm’ – or so she thought it was.
Once back at home, Piper discovers her old crush Tommy, and realizes that teenage crushes are sometimes, only that. At the same time, she’s glad to find her old good pal Jack, who may just turn into ‘more than just an old friend’. You’ll have to read this sweet story to find out.
This is a fun holiday read with some good writing and a good lesson or two on luck and love.
My Sunday book review today is for Harmony Kent’s novella, Oh Baubles. A story about a young woman Charlene who had some terrible misfortune in her life and thought all chances of love were off the table, not realizing love was right under her nose.
After a tragic accident one Christmas, Charlene loses her husband and her leg.Scarred and damaged, the losses leave her lost and reeling, and a long recovery lies ahead of her.
When John, a hot young physiotherapist, comes into her life with his ripped abs and good-god good-looks, she can’t imagine he’d give somebody like her a second glance.
Then she falls for him.
Can Charlene overcome all obstacles to gain back her life and find true love once more?
Find out in this fun-filled, clean Christmas romance novella from award-winning author Harmony Kent.
My 5 Star Review:
Charlene has survived a car crash, and the collateral damage was she lost both her husband and her leg in the crash. And with all she’d been through with coping, and therapy, it didn’t leave her much of a self-esteem. Enter Dr. John her Adonis-like physiotherapist, and Charlene becomes attracted to him, at the same time she couldn’t even fathom that he would be interested in a mess like her.
The book continues on with the encounters between these two characters, sometimes so close, yet so far, as we learn there is a mutual attraction, yet mishaps, misinterpreted signs and setbacks seem to always get in the way of them getting together. The author does a great job of inviting us into all the thoughts these two characters have, and will keep us rooting throughout the roadblocks for them to finally get together.
More than just a romance story with some well developed characters and some insight as to what an amputee endures, both physically and mentally. A sweet holiday read you can enjoy in a two-hour sitting.
Welcome to my last Q & A post for 2021. I know I have been sparse this year with Q & A features due to my world turning upside down, but I couldn’t end off the year without sharing the news here from one of my oldest blogging friends, Deborah Jay, who has just released Book 4 in her 5 Kingdoms series – The Prince’s Heir.
About Deborah Jay:
Deborah Jay writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy featuring complex, quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.
Fortunate to live near Loch Ness in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands with her partner and a pack of rescue dogs, she can often be found lurking in secluded glens and forests, researching locations for her books.
She has a dream day job riding, training, and judging, competition dressage horses and riders, and also writes books and magazine features on the subject under her professional name of Debby Lush.
A lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, she started writing her first novel aged eight, and has never stopped. Her first published novel is epic fantasy, THE PRINCE’S MAN, first in the Five Kingdoms series, and winner of a UK Arts Council award. #2, THE PRINCE’S SON and #3, THE
PRINCE’S PROTEGE are both available with the concluding book in the quartet, THE PRINCE’S HEIR, released December 14th 2021.
Read the gripping conclusion to The Five Kingdoms series…
King Marten’s reign balances on a blade’s edge. Chel’s Casket, symbol of his right to rule, is missing. Can master spies, Rustam and Risada, recover it before someone notices its absence and challenges Marten’s sovereignty? Or is there a more sinister motive behind the disappearance of the casket—a relic that could be used to raise the demon god, Charin.
As a series of natural disasters besets the kingdoms, evidence points towards interference by the meddlesome deity, and the terrifying prospect of war between its two opposing aspects.
When Marten’s beloved wife, Betha, and their infant daughter vanish, Marten faces a stark choice: save his family, or try to save his kingdom from a conflict that threatens all humanity.
Excerpt from Prince’s Heir
“Risada,” said Marten in a tone that sent ice crawling down her spine. “There’s something we didn’t tell you last year. We thought it would never be an issue once we’d destroyed Charin’s Cult.”
The king paused, pursing his lips. Blood pounded through Risada’s head, filling the silence. She felt nauseous. What had they kept from her, and why?
Marten drew a deep breath, then continued. “You know they wanted our child. What you don’t know is that things came to a head when you returned with Halson. Charin wanted a child of the royal bloodline, and it seems Hal’s would have satisfied Him as much as mine.”
Risada gripped the back of a nearby chair, clinging to that spot of reality in a world turned hazy.
Halson! Charin wanted her son!
A fierce rush of protectiveness blasted through her. She would die before she allowed that to happen. Staring into Marten’s eyes, she saw the same intent reflected there. Of course, he and Betha had been willing to sacrifice themselves before, and now he feared Betha might be forced to make that call again.
“We won’t let it come to that; I promise.” She took one of his hands and squeezed it, but he shrugged and disengaged his grip.
“Sadly, that’s not something you can promise. Not where Charin’s involved. I’ve faced Him, remember? I was lucky to survive, and I don’t give much for my chances if it comes to a rerun.”
“Marten.” Risada employed the same tone she used when Halson was being difficult. “You’re not alone in this. You will never be alone to deal with such an attack again; that I can promise.
Let’s get to know more about Deb’s writing and dressage life in our Q & A session:
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite of your books and if so, why?
Nine so far, plus novellas and short stories. Two non-fiction books on horse training (my day job), one SF (not published), five epic fantasy (one not published) and one urban fantasy. The unpublished books were where I cut my writer’s teeth, learning about plot, pace, and technique. One day I’d love to revisit them, but with so many other projects on the go, who knows if I’ll find the time?
My favorite book will always be the last one I finished. If you are anything like me, as we write more books our style changes, develops and (hopefully) improves. I am still proud as punch of my first published novel – THE PRINCE’S MAN – which in the early days before self-publishing, netted me two agents and a slew of positive feedback from the Big Six (as they were in those days) publishers, although no contract. Now, I’m really happy it didn’t sell – I would never have been allowed to write the sequels the way they’ve turned out, and I wouldn’t have control of my own career.
D.G. – You’ve certainly come a long way my busy friend. And yes, you are spot on, the more books we write, of course, our styles change as we learn new things. How many of us would like to go back and rewrite all our published books? Lol 🙂
What’s your opinion on self-publishing?
As a hybrid author – both traditionally and indie published – I can definitely say the latter is far and away my preferred route. Not only do I get to write what I want, when I want, I also earn a markedly higher percentage of the income from my indie published books (70% from Amazon, 60% from some other platforms, paid each month) than I do from my trad published books (10% from my publisher, paid annually).
Sure, traditional publishers can get you into bricks-and-mortar stores, but that’s far less important since Covid struck, closing so many, or forcing them to sell online. Publishers also have extremely limited funds available for marketing, and contracted authors are expected to do most of the grunt work themselves – marketing, networking, selling in person, etc. – so I’d rather put my efforts into my indie books for a higher return.
D.G. – My sentiments exactly Deb. And I’ve heard same thoughts from a few different authors who left trad to take control of their own books. 🙂
Did you have a passion to write as a child? Do you remember the first thing you wrote?
I don’t know about a passion, I just always assumed I would write. It seemed the natural progression – read other people’s stuff, then write your own.
As a child, comics took my interest, and my earlier attempts at writing were accompanied by awful illustrations (I’m no artist). When my mother died a couple of years ago, in amongst her papers (she was also a writer) I found what must be my earliest attempt, aged about 6 – ‘The travels of Sammy Snail – Scotland here I come’. Weirdly prophetic, as at that time I had never been to Scotland, nor had any of my family, and yet that’s precisely where I now live.
After that, came ‘The Adventures of Galloper’, another illustrated comic book, and then ‘Samantha the Adventurous Poodle’, a novel which failed at chapter 3 because it had no plot!
D.G. – What a gorgeous find! I know you have tons on your plate and agenda, but wouldn’t it be fun if you revised and published her work in a children’s book someday, authored by both of you? Food for thought. 🙂
Would you like to share with us what upcoming projects and/or ideas for books you’re working on?
While this week’s release brings to a conclusion the main story of one set of characters, I still have plenty of other tales to tell about them. One of the best aspects of self-publishing is the option to publish books of any size. I already wrote one short story that fits in between books #1 & #2, with another underway. I plan to write a set of them, with the ultimate goal of gathering them into a book of their own.
I have also plotted out and started a novella, telling the back story of a minor character who grew to become a major force in books #3 & 4. In addition, years ago, I wrote the novel that takes place before this set, so I plan on going back and rewriting that to a publishable standard too.
Beyond that, I have a rough outline for the next sequence of books, featuring the next generation. I’ve set up a lot of worldbuilding ready for them to walk right into, so, although the over-arching plot appears to end in book #4, it has a lot further to go – I’m thinking maybe 10 books in all?
Next up is putting together a boxset of books #1 – #4, and start editing for audiobook production – something I still have to dip my toe in. I also have one novel and a short story published in an urban fantasy series, with 6 chapters of the next book already done and just waiting for me to pick it up again.
Finally (as if that lot wasn’t enough!), I am currently writing a commissioned non-fiction book on horse training to go with the two already published, and sketching out two new in-person presentations now we are allowed to do such things again.
I’m certainly never short of stuff to do!
D.G. – You’re a machine girl! I hate to add to your plate, but I was hoping you would come out with a sequel to Desprite Measures with your Cassie character. 🙂
Do you edit and proofread your own work solely or do you hire an editor?
I’m really fortunate to have worked with an awesome writer’s group for many years – thirty, to be precise! Members have come and gone, but the core has remained. New members have to put in an audition piece, so we can assess the standard of their writing. If we feel they aren’t ready to join us yet we point them towards where they can find more basic help to develop.
The group consists of (almost) exclusively published authors – some short fiction writers, some novelists. We do include a uni student, reading creative writing (what else?), but fundamentally we all write professional pieces that sell. We used to meet in person once a month, now we do it on Zoom, which means a couple of former members who moved away have rejoined.
One of the best aspects is that between us we cover a wide range of professions and interests, such as a medical doctor, a computer programmer, a travel writer, and a stand-up comic! Between the lot of us, we’re pretty darned good at the whole gamut of editing. And knowing we will all be on the receiving end at some point, we’ve become well practiced at constructive critiquing – the best sort of group.
D.G. – Sounds like a great plan and a wonderful and eclectic bunch of writers! 🙂
What was the inspiration behind the series you’ve just completed?
I was always frustrated that the super-spy, James Bond, was never allowed (until now!) to develop as a character. Enter my leading man, Rustam Chalice – a shallow, womanizing, spy. During THE PRINCE’S MAN, alongside the action and politics, everything he thought he knew is challenged and proven to be false, bringing about profound changes to his life, which continues to develop through the entire series.
I chose a fantasy setting partly because of my love for Lord of the Rings, but also because of the incredible scope available to my imagination. I can do whatever I want with the world (provided it’s consistent and makes sense), which allows me to put my characters through a crucible unlike anything they would experience in a real-world setting.
Out of these two things came tagline for the series: Think James Bond meets Lord of the Rings.
D.G. – Brilliant concept! 🙂
It was a pleasure having you over today Deb. I wish you much success with your new release, and no doubts the Prince’s Man fans for this series are anxiously awaiting this new release.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. I’m delighted to share my review for D.L. Finn’s middle-grade story – Tree Fairies. Truth be told, I ordered the paperback copy for my young niece, and of course I had to read it first! This is a wonderful book for any age to read this enchanting story with lessons learned through the wise trees and fairies.
When reality and magic meet in the forest
It’s 1969, and twelve-year-old Daniel Burns is camping in the redwood forest with his family. Danny wants to listen to his music and read, but his family has other plans. S’mores around the campfire and stories end their first day. The family is sleeping soundly in their secluded tent when Danny wakes up and finds his sister, Colette, is missing. Assuming she went to use the outhouse, he goes after her. When he finds his sister, they discover there is a thin veil between reality and fantasy. Two bonus short stories offer a glimpse into the magical world that finds Danny and Colette. These hidden beings not only share our world but have a role in protecting their forest.
My 5 Star Review:
Finn takes us into a fantasy world of fairies and humans working together to save the forest. Danny and and his sister Collette and his parents go camping 1969, one night while Colette sleepwalks into the forest, Danny noticed her gone and goes to find her. It’s outside at night they meet the fairies – the protectors of the forest. The fairies know Danny’s mother is a writer and ask if she could write a book to help save the forest. The Wise Old Trees offer help with their wisdom.
The book consists of 3 parts, 3 continuing stories. The next generation – Danny and Colette and their kids go camping in the same forest in 1990 and learn about some baddies dumping barrels of waste in the forest. Danny, now a writer with his kids Wren and Sierra, and Colette, now a movie director, come back to the forest to visit the fairies and wise trees and to take care of bad business happening to nature. Mom is still writing and dad is retired and they are both living off the grid.
The three stories are linked and all have the same characters as not to confuse young readers. It deals with different issues, from clear cutting, to stopping toxic waste dumping, to catching and sending away poachers, all while offering entertaining fantasy characters from the forest, yet teaching life lessons on the importance of working to keep the environment clean and sustainable, demonstrating the humans working together with the fairies to help save the forest.
The author has a wonderful way of weaving a magical story with real life issues and lessons the children learn about nature from the fairies and trees.