Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Secret in the Attic by Samantha Jillian Bayarr

Published synopsis:

Amy has just inherited her grandmother's coffee shop and bookstore. But in order to accept it, she must move away from her childhood sweetheart, Jonathon, whom she hoped was on the verge of proposing. When a wealthy, older gentleman visits the bookstore one day, he spins a tale of Annabelle, his childhood sweetheart, and talks of a family curse that tore them apart more than fifty years ago. While searching her grandmother’s attic for the wedding dress worn by three generations before her, Amy stumbles upon clues in an old steamer trunk that could help lead the stranger to his Annabelle. But what does this curse have to do with her? When Jake, Henry’s grandson, gets involved, everything becomes more complicated than Amy bargained for. How can she help Henry and break the curse without destroying her own chance at true love?


After Amy is given her grandmother’s coffee shop and bookstore, she moves out of the city and into small town life. She finds it a little slow for her taste but she has a business to run so moving back isn’t an option. To make matters worse, her best friend and her soon to be fiancĂ©, Jonathon, keep putting off making the hour and a half drive to visit her, leaving her with an even greater sense of loneliness.But the time apart from Jonathon has given her doubts about whether they are truly well matched for marriage.

Enter Jake, the handsome and charming grandson of an elderly man who swears that Amy is the exact likeness of his first love, Annabelle. Jake and his grandfather welcome Amy into their lives with open arms but it doesn’t take long to figure out that Jake has more than just friendship on his mind. As if choosing between two men isn’t hard enough, it turns out that if she marries the one who is her true love, the family curse will kick in bringing heartache to all. Should she settle for second best?

A Secret in the Attic is a delightful read and being a novella, it can be read in one sitting. The main character has to choose between following the path that she always thought she would follow or to jump in with both feet and let her life take a new direction. It is a little bothersome that she doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing until it is almost too late, but she does redeem herself nicely in the end.The characters have an interesting innocence to them that makes it possible to believe that a curse could make them change their life course and sacrifice true love, but the paranormal aspect of the book isn’t strong. Overall, A Secret in the Attic is a sweet romance about choosing passion over safety and I enjoyed reading it.

I give this book 4 stars.

Purchase A Secret in the Attic by Samantha Jillian Bayarr

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Heart On a Chain by Cindy C. Bennett

Published Synopsis:

17-year-old Kate has lived her whole life in abject poverty, with an alcoholic father and drug-addicted mother, who severely abuses Kate. At school, her second-hand clothing marks her as a target. Her refusal to stand up for herself makes her the recipient of her classmates taunts and bullying. That is, until Henry returns.

Henry Jamison moved away six years earlier, just as he and Kate had begun to develop feelings for one another. He returns to find the bright, funny, outgoing girl he had known now timidly hiding in corners, barely speaking to anyone around her, suspicious of even him.

Kate can't figure out what game Henry is playing with her - for surely it is a game. What else would the gorgeous, popular boy from her past want with her?

Kate finally decides to trust Henry's intentions, opening her heart to him. Just when it seems he might be genuine in his friendship, tragedy strikes, threatening everything Kate has worked so hard to gain. Can Henry help her to overcome this new devastation, or will it tear them apart forever?


In Heart on a String, a YA romance, Cindy C. Bennett tackles the issue of child abuse. Kate, a seventeen year old girl that has lived with physical abuse, verbal abuse, starvation, and, of course, great fear for the last eight years has no one she can turn to for help. Even when she finally is able to let her guard down and tries to trust someone, she knows that it isn’t a way out. Time with Henry is only a small reprieve from what she has to face on a daily basis, but she learns to cherish those times with all her heart.

Cindy C. Bennett does an excellent job of exposing the world of abuse and its physical and psychological impact on a child.Abuse doesn’t always stop at home.The defense mechanisms that an abused child puts in place can also help to make that child a target outside of the home as well. Kate accepts her abuse as inevitable and when the kids at school decide she’s everyone’s favorite punching bag, she feels she has no recourse but to sit back and take whatever they dish out. Even when Henry and his family embrace her and welcome her with open arms, that doesn’t mean her problems are solved. As she points out when his father wants to report a violent attack on her from her mother, in the flawed system now in place, teenagers have very few options for real help and often end up in more, or just different, trouble when the abuse is reported.

I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed reading Heart on a String. This is not a Cinderella story but it is a love story. The prince doesn’t come along and save Kate from her nightmare, but he is there to help her through the worst of what her mother, and others, dishes out. When the nightmare does finally end and the road to recovery is open to her, Kate still has to learn how to be whole again. She needs to learn to see herself as someone worth loving but it’s a long road and before she reaches the end of it, she may just push away those who are best able to help her see what a wonderful person she truly is. Readers of Heart on a Chain take this journey with her and come away with a little bit of this book in their hearts forever.

This is definitely a five star book.

Purchase Heart On a Chain by Cindy C. Bennett

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mojo by Kris Sedersten

Published synopsis:

When Scottie Brown, a New Orleans college student, finds himself being haunted by vivid nightmares and daytime apparitions, he begins a search for answers; unwittingly putting himself and those closest to him in a confrontation with evil.
To defeat the energy that torments him, he recruits a team of paranormal investigators that includes friends from high school and a psychic medium. Together, they pursue the ghosts of Scottie's ancestors in an abandoned plantation where they uncover dark family secrets and the spiritual energy of a malevolent patriarch who projects an unholy prophecy that has deadly consequences for all mankind.
The term "Mojo" becomes central to fighting Scottie's demons as the journey through the haunted mansion deep in the Louisiana countryside, filled with twists and turns, takes on a life of its own in a race against time.
Mojo oozes paranormal horror with a mystery thriller edge and a message about how the faith in a power greater than ourselves will lift us through even the most unforeseeable obstacles in life.


There are a lot of secrets in Scottie Brown’s family that could alter not only his future, but everyone’s. A sadistic, demon-worshiping grandfather has the power to fulfill a prophecy from the grave and Scottie is a key player in his evil plan.Haunted by a dark figure first in his dreams and then when he’s awake, Scottie has to come to terms with the fact that what is happening to him is not only real, but very, very dangerous. And if he can’t figure out how to put an end to it, his life is going to be pretty short. Gathering people he knows are true believers of the paranormal, Scottie sets out to get answers and the trail leads him to an old, abandoned plantation in Louisiana owned by his father’s family.

Long a fan of paranormal, horror is a new genre for me with Mojo being my first foray into reviewing this type of book. I found Mojo to be an action packed thriller with an interesting plot as it delved into the world of ghosts, or spirits, that live on after death. It also definitely had some parts that could keep you up at night looking at shadows. As the book progresses, so do the tension levels of the characters which gets the heart of the reader to start pumping just a little bit faster.

Throughout the book, the characters grow and have more substance but there were some hiccups. I was somewhat put off in the beginning with the interaction between Scottie and his girlfriend as they referred to each other as ‘boy,’ ‘woman’ and ‘girl.’ These comments, and comments made to other characters, made it seem as if they didn’t have the level of respect and feelings for each other that they had as the book reached its climax so as the reader, it was a little difficult to reconcile their behavior. There is also a lot of information that is alluded to from the past, such as how Scottie met his ghost hunting friends, details about what they dealt with in Nebraska and how they resolved it, and the history of the truck that has an important role in the story. The book would have been better with this information.

Mojo has a strong Christian theme with faith and the power of prayer conquering evil being a strong message throughout the book. Because of this, the ending is what would be expected in Christian fiction. Overall, Mojo was entertaining and it has opened the door to a new genre for me, which I appreciate.Kris Sedersten has a strong literary voice and I would be happy to read more of her work.

My overall rating for the book is 3 ½ stars.

Purchase Mojo by Kris Sedersten

Thursday, May 5, 2011

She Smells the Dead by E. J. Stevens

Published synopsis:

She Smells the Dead is the first book in the YA Paranormal Spirit Guide series by E.J. Stevens.

It's the beginning of senior year and Yuki's psychic awareness of ghostly spirits is threatening to ruin her life. Her ability to sense spirits of the dead isn't glamorous like the ghost hunting on television.


The smell impressions are becoming stronger. Yuki is being visited in her dreams, and she suspects that her friend Calvin is involved in something strange. To make matters worse her crush on Garrett is going unrequited, Yuki's friend Emma is on a rampage against bee oppression, and annoying Calvin Miller mysteriously disappears. Will Yuki be able to focus her powers in time to save the lost soul who is haunting her? Meanwhile, who will save Yuki from following the spirits into the light?


Yuki is just beginning her senior year and as if high school wasn’t difficult enough, she has to deal with smelling the dead while paying attention in class. E. J. Stevens has brought a new and fun element to YA paranormal fiction. Yuki doesn’t smell corpses; she smells something that is associated with the human life of the spirit trying to make contact. She then needs to use her yet limited, but developing, detective skills to try to figure out who the spirit was and why it’s contacting her with only her sense of smell as a guide.

I truly enjoyed this book. I am a fan of dream imagery and E. J. Stevens weaves this into the story nicely. The characters are charming, quirky and interesting and they each seem to blossom as the book progresses. Yuki may be somewhat awkward in the beginning but she takes on the challenge of dealing with her ability with strength and courage. While dealing with all of this, she also discovers that her feelings for her good friend, Calvin, are stronger than friendship. But she knows that Calvin is keeping something from her, something important and she’s determined to discover what it is even if it could mean the end of their burgeoning relationship. Yuki’s vegan friend Emma seems to take it all in stride as she battles her own demons such as cruelty of animals by meat eaters and the oppression of bees by beekeepers. The more I read, the harder it was to put the book down.

The one thing I thought the book was missing was back story.There is no clear explanation of how Yuki discovers that the overwhelming smells that bombard her are those of dead spirits. Were there others in her family history that may have had the ability or is this something that happens only to random individuals? Did she have dreams that helped her believe that she indeed smelled the dead? Yuki’s friends are supportive throughout the book and believe in her ability but did they believe her at first? It would be interesting to know how she told them and convinced them that this power of hers was real. I would love to read maybe a novelette prequel to She Smells the Dead that answers these questions.

She Smells the Dead is a fun read that makes you eager to discover where the spirits are going to take Yuki and Calvin next. I will definitely be reading the second book in this series!

I give this book 4/5 stars

Purchase She Smells the Dead by E. J. Stevens

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shelter Blood Haze: Book One by Tara Shuler

Published Synopsis:

Two guys, one girl, and two dark secrets that threaten to tear her world apart.

Alice Wright is a young vampire going to high school for the first time at the age of seventeen at the behest of her eccentric mother. In many ways, she's more afraid of the human students than they would be of her.

She feels lost and awkward in human society, but she soon develops a strong bond with the cousin of one of her human classmates, nineteen year old Kai. He is beautiful, but somewhat of an enigma. She discovers a dark secret in Kai's life, and she instantly wants to shelter him from the pain that has tormented him all his life. 

Then she meets Maksim Augustine, the incredibly gorgeous guy who seems more like he should be a model than a high school student. She is overwhelmingly attracted to him physically, but her love for Kai causes her to continually push him away. Eventually, she discovers a frightening secret about Max, too.

But Max's secret threatens to destroy everything...


Everyone has secrets, especially vampires who are just trying to live out their lives in a human world as inconspicuously as possible. Alice Wright has been sheltered from the human world for her first seventeen years, but now her mother for some reason wants her to have the same experiences as a human teenager. That means going to high school. Alice is a shy, somewhat awkward girl who discovers that the stereotypes on television became stereotypes for a reason. There are the mean girls in school, there is the one girl who everyone loves to pick on, and there are guys who are absolutely irresistible. Now Alice has to figure out how to react to all of this.

When I decided to start doing reviews for indie authors, I wondered how long it would take to find a book that merited five stars. I wonder no more.Shelter, book one of the Blood Haze series, was an unexpected delight. As one explores the YA paranormal romance genre, it often seems that vampires involved in love triangles has been done to death and most often they are just variations of Twilight, but Tara Shuler is a fresh voice in the genre. Yes, there are vampires. Yup, there’s a love triangle. And yes, the word love is bandied about and in some instances makes you wish you could sit Alice down and explain the differences between love, like, sympathy, and attraction.

But isn’t that what teenage love is all about? Isn’t it a time when you can try love on and spin in front of the mirror to see how it fits? Alice’s feelings for Kai are affected by his past and sometimes their interactions are absolutely cringe worthy when looking in from the outside, but it’s easy to see how her desperation not to hurt him any more than he already has been makes her look past some of his behavior. Maksim is a different story. He is confident, fun, and stands up for what he believes in and Alice can’t help but be drawn to him. But he’s not exactly who she thinks he is and if he learns her secret, he could take down her entire family. But would he?

Shelter is a wonderful debut novel from Tara Shuler. The story flows effortlessly and allows the reader to share the ups and downs and the frustrations of the characters. I read the book in one sitting because I didn’t want to put it down and with the cliffhanger ending, now I have to read book two! I don’t mind in the least.

Purchase Shelter Blood Haze: Book One by Tara Shuler

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shrouded Path by Aron White

Published Synopsis:

Jun Quan dreamed of learning kung fu, but never thought abandonment would be the price he’d pay. Years later, he winds up on the streets of Kunming, one of the most corrupt cities in 16th century China, and finds himself not only protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty, but also searching for clues to his father’s disappearance and its link to the mysterious Red Doorway.


In Shrouded Path, Jun Quan has a lot of questions but not many answers. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a Kung Fu master but when he finally has the opportunity, the cost seems too high. While he studies under the guidance of a master, Shifu, the questions continue to haunt him and he eventually needs to find his own path hoping to find the answers he needs.Along the way, he makes friends as well as enemies and becomes a Robin Hood of sorts as he tries to overthrow a corrupt government.

There are a lot of positives in Shrouded Path. Aron White does a good job when it comes to weaving secrets into the story line; and his fight scenes are written so that you can imagine the action in your head while you read. The characters are well developed and the story is definitely interesting enough to keep you reading to the end. The cliff hanger ending makes reading the second book in the series a must!

What I would have liked to have seen in Shrouded Path was a stronger variation on the theme of the Kung Fu master taking on corruption. As I was reading, I sometimes felt as if I had read the story before. The story was good and I liked it, but at times it was too stereotypical and I knew exactly where it was headed. All in all, I think Aron White has a nice writing style and I hope that he continues to add a positive voice to fiction focused around Asian themes.

I give this book a strong 3 stars.

Purchase Shrouded Path by Aron White

Monday, May 2, 2011

Take a Chance On Him by Cameron Bayler

Published Synopsis:

Rapidly approaching forty, Lori Dergan wonders whether the right guy is out there. Since her divorce, she’s had three disastrous dates, including one with a guy who takes things too far, too fast…in a restaurant. Just as she’s ready to implement the three-strikes rule, Jake Sawyer comes along.

Jake’s had some bad dates of his own, especially with the girl who tells a cringe-worthy story of almost disfiguring a guy during sex. A former competitive swimmer, Jake now coaches a college swim team, but he’s looking for something a little more invigorating than just pool water.

Jake ignores his pessimistic and oversexed friend’s advice (“The whole thing’s a disaster waiting to happen. Just get some naked pics of her!”) and wants to meet Lori.

Lori takes her friend’s advice (“Do you know how hot a swimmer’s body is? What do you have to lose?”) and decides to meet Jake…and sets in motion a chain of events that will initially make her feel alive again, but ultimately take her right back where she started—wondering whether she’ll ever trust anyone again.

Unless Jake can change her mind…


In Take a Chance On Him, Cameron Bayler does an excellent job of tackling the growing trend of women dating younger men in a way that touches on the real life pros and cons associated with it. For centuries, no one has batted an eye at men dating younger women but society still attaches a certain stigma to it when it happens the other way around, including using predatory language for the woman involved such as Cougar or Puma. In this book, Lori, a divorced mother of two and about to turn forty, has avoided the dating scene since her devastating divorce from a man who was not faithful.Jake, a twenty-five year old graduate student, has always been attracted to older women but has never acted on it before. The two meet and the chemistry between them is more than either had counted on regardless of what society thinks should happen.

The ruminations of the main characters as they ponder how a relationship between them would not only affect their lives, but also the lives of those they care about, is a powerful testament to Cameron Bayler’s grasp of character study. The interactions between Lori and Jake begin tentatively and then build into a burgeoning relationship as they get to know each other better. Their dialogue is often witty and sensual and a delight to read. When the two finally bring their relationship to the next level, the book really heats up.

What holds me back from giving this book a solid four stars are two things. As the book moves along, especially early on, the characters often think back to the past and sometimes this dialogue can become confused with the present. It also affects the flow of the writing creating an almost jagged effect for the reader at times. The other thing holding me back is the time line. There are several instances that it doesn’t mesh between the characters or what was written earlier. These two points aside, Cameron Bayler has a lovely voice for writing romance and has the ability to engage the reader in a way that makes the characters seem real, like they could be your neighbors down the street. I hope that this is the first of many romances from Ms. Bayler.

I give this book 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Purchase Take a Chance On Him by Cameron Bayler

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Twelve Worlds: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Stories for Charity

Published Synopsis:

An anthology of short stories by new, independent authors. Author royalties will be donated to Reading is Fundamental, the the nation's largest nonprofit children's literacy organization.

Stories include:

By a Whisker by Kevin O. McLaughlin (3500 words): Someone is siphoning magical energy from the powerful ley nexus at Northshield University in this urban fantasy. Ryan goes to investigate, and gets help from an unexpected quarter.

The Accidental Muse by Amy Rose Davis (6200 words): A girl with no memory, a grieving widower, and a sweet-natured boy with strange power live a quiet life in their sheltered Keep until the night a traveling musician arrives at the door. The power of the musician's harp threatens to destroy their family unless one of them can stop it. A tale of gods, muses, mysterious spirits, and the power of love.

The Price of Vengeance by Derek J. Canyon (7400 words): In 22nd century Atlanta, Maggie hunts the genetically-engineered dwarf who killed her entire gang.

Insomnomancer by JE Medrick (3400 words): Witness life through the eyes of a predator. Kyle Hall, barely remarkable in a world of gray faces, is targeted by a very specialized hunter. To the target, it is night after sleepless night. To the Insomnomancer - a game of points and hungry satisfaction.

Thump by NB Kelly (4650 words): When a hitchhiker becomes part of an impromptu road trip, peace is the last thing that two young men will get out of it.

Iron in Shadow by Edward L. Cote (14900 words): The best thief in Rithmoor, the City of Dark Water, goes by the name Slip. He takes on a promising job, but it gets more complicated and dangerous the more he learns about what exactly it is he must do. To avoid certain death at the hands of the Great Magus Dibian, he must risk the wrath of the world's hardest people.

Together They Die by Brian Drake (3220 words): A former cop helps a ghost solve her murder.

Incubators by Manley Peterson (3200 words): Lost in space, three astronauts struggle to accept their fate aboard a crippled ship. Could a last-minute rescue be all they hoped for?

Cube by Coral Russell (4150 words): Luke's family isn't perfect, but they're worth saving. How far would you go to save your family?

The Star-Eater by K Gorman (6000 words): Karin wakes up one day on her starship, realizing her sister has been killed--but not before her sister cursed the murderer. Now she's got a man to kill. And her boss is starting to suspect that she's a little more than human...

Man-Maker by BC Woods (8050 words): A young boy in a society based entirely around defending itself against zombie-like demons refuses a sacred rite of passage.

Daddy Issues by John G. Hartness (4200 words): Vampires, voodoo, zombies and gold-diggers, it's all in a day's work for the boys at Black Knight Investigations. Vampire Private Investigators Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood are called in to dispose of a zombie in the library, but there's always more than meets the eye where these detectives are concerned. Takes place before the events in Hard Day's Knight.


Weird and Wondeful by Tony Lavely (6000 words): Mailira and Marelsa together bring an old Scottish folk tale to life for a young musician.

The Light Stream by Jaylin Baer (3060 words): The transition between waking and sleeping, dreaded by some and enjoyed by others, becomes something altogether different for a very select few. Discover one woman's journey into the Light Stream.


I would recommend buying this book just for the simple reason that all proceeds go to RIF (Reading is Fundamental) which helps bring the joy of reading to children across the country, but happily, there are other reasons to pick this book up as well. Twelve-Worlds has a little something for lovers of paranormal, fantasy and science fiction alike. Some of the stories will make you laugh out loud as the characters scramble to set things right, and others will make you think about such things as a world without music or the need for vengeance and its cost. There were several stories in the anthology that stood out for me:

By a Whisper by Kevin O. McLaughlin was the story of a young man sent to stop a magician from setting free an evil that would not only destroy, but forever torture, an entire community. The main character is charming and engaging and I would love to read more about his adventures. Not to mention the adventures of the cat who helps to save the day.

The Accidental Muse by Amy Rose Davis was a lovely story of music and love in a world where music is controlled by gods who can wreak havoc or give joy. The writing was sweet and the ending was just how it should have been.

Together They Die by Brian Drake was a supernatural tale of a ghost who needed to be set free from her hold on this plane. With the help of two determined detectives and a psychic, the ghost gets her revenge but all does not end well. It would have been interesting to read about other adventures these men had.

The Star Eater by K Gorman was a tale of stars, not the Hollywood kind, the space kind. Stars with magic and the bodies of humans. When a woman is killed, her sister must follow the magic that will lead to the killer and along the way, she gains some unexpected help.

Man-Maker was an intriguing tale of a society that valued allegiance to country above all else. When a patriotic young man who has already proved his allegiance balks against a required ceremony on the grounds that it could destroy the person he loves most, he is forced to live as an outsider. His resolve and ingenuity are compelling and the reader will find him or herself rooting him on as he struggles to hold on to his determination at all costs.

Daddy Issues A Black Knight Chronicles Story by John G. Hartness is a story of two vampire private detectives. There were several scenes and some dialogue in this story that made me laugh out loud as they battled a zombie for their client.This story definitely made me want to read more adventures of these two and I was happy to see that there are some available.

The Light Stream by Jaylin Baer was an intriguing tale of a woman who finds that she has the ability to rewrite her life through the power of dreams. A very compelling idea, indeed.

Admittedly, I did not enjoy all the stories. There was one that I did not finish reading because I do not read fiction that involves the brutality against and/or rape of women. Several other stories I found were just not for me. The stories I listed above were well written and made me want to research the authors to see what else they have written but some of the others I found to be a bit slow, the story did not capture my attention, or they were simply not a genre that I care to read. The stories I did enjoy were enough to make me recommend this book with a four star rating. I believe that most lovers of paranormal, fantasy and science fiction will find a story in Twelve-Worlds that will make the purchase of the entire book worthwhile.

Purchase Twelve Worlds: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Stories for Charity