An Excerpt from The Girl Who Saved Ghosts by K.C. Tansley

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Book Review: H.A.L.F.: Origins by Natalie Wright

H.A.L.F. Book 3
Natalie Wright
Boadicea Press, August 2017
ISBN 978-15453-7109-1
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Tex and Erika are again fugitives, on the run for their lives. But when Tex falls gravely ill, a Navajo healer is Tex’s only hope for survival. He emerges from the ordeal changed in body and mind and with vital information: how to stop the predatory M’Uktah from destroying those he has come to love.

Erika Holt seeks a respite from the constant threats to her life but she’s not about to give up. As she and Tex launch a mission to shut down the galactic highway used by invaders, she grows closer to her troubled half-alien companion. But what about her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Jack?

Jack Wilson, with his new friend Anna Sturgis, is determined to put an end to the Makers’ schemes for world domination. Complicating matters, the valuable medicine to counter the alien virus has been stolen.

As both alien and human forces line up against them, the destiny of all humankind is hand the hands of these young warriors. And time is running out.

Natalie Wright captured my attention two years ago with the first book in this trilogy, The Deep Beneath. Her plot was creative and compelling but what really appealed to me was her character, H.A.L.F. 9, who is a hybrid alien/human intended for unpleasant behaviors but who has an unplanned vulnerability. After an encounter in the Arizona desert with three humans, 9 began to connect in unexpected ways with Erika, Jack and Ian and the humans develop a desire to protect 9. While I really enjoyed the straight-forward science fiction storyline, it was these four characters that meant the most to me.

A lot happened in that first book, leading to capture and imprisonment and a voyage into an unknown future. In Makers, the second book, Erika and Ian were forced onto a spaceship while Jack and Tex, the name chosen for 9, were left behind on earth to face their own dangers. This book made the plot electrifying while the characters became even more real and appealing. Ms. Wright‘s concept solidified into a truly adventurous story that let the reader take part, if you will, in the emotions and action that have marked it as science fiction that’s accessible to all.

Now, the danger of world domination by the aliens, as well as the missing medicine for the virus, propel the friends into looking for ways to fight back against the aliens and a contingent of humans who are no less threatening. Along with an intriguing plot, the characters, including secondary players, are intensely interesting and often unpredictable and the romantic elements that have been developing from the beginning are even more absorbing. This is a love triangle that has real depth to it, unlike what we often see.

Origins ends satisfactorily although with a good deal of sadness and the one major unanswered question is part and parcel of this kind of story. The author seems to have ended this tale but I hope that, perhaps someday, she’ll offer more since I know I’m going to miss Erika and her friends and colleagues.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

Book Review: Tainted Cure by Ashley Fontainne


Title: Tainted Cure
Series: The Rememdium Series Book 1
Author: Ashley Fontainne
Publisher: RMSW Press
Publication Date: January 31, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic


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Tainted Cure
The Rememdium Series Book 1
Ashley Fontainne
RMSW Press, January 2016
ISBN 978-0692633106
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Scientists attempted to find a cure for addiction. They failed.

Dr. Everett Berning, a leading researcher into the causes of addiction in the brain, spent ten years of his life dedicated to one thing: finding the cure. Recruited after a strange encounter with the enigmatic Dr. Roberta Flint, Director of Research on Code Name: Rememdium, Dr. Berning is sent to work in a secret lab as part of the research team.

When the moment the scientists waited on for years arrives, Dr. Flint and her team are ecstatic. 

Unfortunately, not everyone in the world feels the same way.

Benito San Nicholas isn’t ready to give up his lucrative business. When the news of a cure arrives on his doorstep from a crooked informant, Benito enlists the help of other drug lords from around the world to stop the cure from hitting the streets and destroying their livelihoods.

What happens next ends up uniting the globe–just not the way society ever intended or hoped.

Be careful what you wish for…that could have been the tagline for this novel in which a potential cure for addiction is found. Imagine that, a chance to rid the world of so many problems that arise from our dependence on anything you can think of, whether it be chocolate, smoking, particular kinds of exercise, illegal drugs, just about anything. Sounds great doesn’t it?

Such an advancement might very well be a wonderful thing but we all know how this is going to turn out, right? We’d like to think that the government would have proper control and the right intentions but somehow, there nearly always seems to be a glitch and, in this case, that glitch is enormous with consequences beyond anything we could predict.

Surely anybody with half a brain would foresee that the world’s drug lords wouldn’t just stand around and watch this happen—not to mention some other powermongers—and, when the cure falls into their hands, some really terrible things start to happen. Instead of curing addictions, a brand new affliction appears—zombies.

Yes, zombies! I love zombie fiction and Ms. Fontainne came up with a nifty idea, basing the whole concept on well-intentioned people trying to do a good thing (although you know there are going to be some shady things going along with the good) and then the good thing goes very, very wrong (gee, have we seen that happen in real life?). Naturally, there no easy answers and I’m going to have to read Book 2 to see what happens next. I think I can force myself 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

About the Author

Award-winning and International bestselling author Ashley Fontainne enjoys stories that immerse the reader deep into the human psyche and the monsters lurking within each of us. She writes in numerous genres including mystery, suspense, horror, sci-fi and sometimes poetry.

Ashley lives in Arkansas with her husband and is the proud mother of one son and three daughters.

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Book Reviews: The Thirst by Jo Nesbo and A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly

The Thirst
A Harry Hole Novel #11
Jo Nesbo
Translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith
Knopf, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-385-35216-1

Harry Hole, Norway’s most experienced serial murder detective, is content to no longer serve on the murder squad, instead lecturing at the police college and living happily after marrying Rakel three years ago.  Unfortunately, such bliss is interrupted when evidence of a possible murder too difficult to solve leads the police chief to blackmail Harry into joining the hunt.  And then he jumps in with both feet.

It turns out that the villain in a previous novel in the series, Police, may be the sought-after culprit, especially when Harry recognizes the killer’s MO.  As the frustrating hunt continues, we learn more about vampirism than, perhaps, we’d like.  It appears that the murderer has a taste for drinking the victim’s blood.  And Nesbo delves into the subject deeply and often.

In this, the 11th Harry Hole novel, the author once again demonstrates why the series is so popular:  a plot so well-developed that the reader hardly notices the length of the book.  And the twist that draws the tale to an end certainly is an added fillip.  The Thirst demonstrates to what lengths Harry Hole will go to solve a case.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2017.


A Game of Ghosts
A Charlie Parker Thriller #15
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-7189-5

This is Book #15 in the Charlie Parker series.  In it, Charlie has made a deal with Special Agent Ross and is on retainer to the FBI, and he is asked to find a private investigator, Jacob Eklund, also working for Ross, who apparently has disappeared.  With few facts, especially what the PI was doing for Ross, Parker begins his investigation.  And it leads him into the weirdest of investigations. It seems Eklund, on his own, was involved in tracking down a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to extraordinary events or sightings.

Meanwhile, Parker is also facing pressure from Rachel, his onetime girlfriend and mother of his daughter, Sam; she is convinced Sam’s exposure to Parker places her in jeopardy.  This belief, reinforced by Sam’s abduction in a previous novel and possible harm, leads Rachel to seek judicial relief preventing direct contact between Parker and his daughter without direct supervision.

As the author acknowledges: “This odd book—if mine are not all odd books—is as much a product of a lifetime of reading ghost stories…”  And it is odd.  And it is filled with ghost stories.  It is an intriguing tale of the supernatural, together with a basic crime story.  It is one fascinating account and well-plotted, bringing together what amounts to a detective story and a ghost story, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2017.

Dangerous Words, Slippery Meanings

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at

The author Edward St. Aubyn believes that reading is a collaborative enterprise.  The writer’s words merge with the imagination and experience of the reader and the meaning is transformed.  The reader may come away with an understanding close to what the writer intended.  Or she may find something entirely different in the text.  It’s a tricky alchemy.

In 1729, Jonathan Swift offered “A Modest Proposal” to prevent Irish children from becoming a burden to their parents.  He suggested that the poor sell their babies as food to aristocrats.  “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old…most delicious and nourishing, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.”  His intention was to call attention to the terrible disparity of wealth between rich and poor.  Unfortunately, readers didn’t get the satire.  Swift was decried as a savage, a cannibal, and a maniac.

When Randy Newman wrote the song “Short People Got No Reason to Live,” he intended it as an ironic comment on the silliness of prejudice.  A large number of outraged short people didn’t hear it that way.  He received death threats and Little People of America picketed his concerts.

Sinclair Lewis grew despondent when readers misread his novel, The Jungle.  The book detailed the disgusting conditions endured by wage laborers in the Chicago meat packing industry.  But instead of being outraged by the hardships and injustice faced by workers, the public was outraged by the lack of sanitation in how their meat was produced.  The selfishness of the Capitalist system, which Lewis had sought to satirize, resulted in an almost perfect irony.  The self-interested public cared not a fig for the plight of the workers.  They cared only about the wholesomeness of the food they put in their mouths.

Definitions of irony cover a wide range of variation, but it always involves some form of misinterpretation.  Generally speaking, irony is a contradiction between what is said (or written) and what is understood.  It can be intentional or unintentional.  But literary theorist Stanley Fish argues that there is no such thing as a “correct” interpretation. The reader is the ultimate judge.  She creates the meaning.

A writer may think he’s made his point so clearly that it couldn’t possibly be missed or misconstrued.  But authorial authority is irrelevant, immaterial, and ultimately irrecoverable.  The reader brings her own notions.  Depending on her mindset, she may respond enthusiastically to a character’s facetious or irreverent remarks or she may take umbrage.  In the worst case, she may be so incensed that she demands the book be banned.  The author’s disclaimers of malice are futile.

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is one of the most frequently banned books.  It satirizes the attitudes of 19th Century Southern society, especially issues of race and slavery.  Twain was fiercely opposed to slavery and scathing in his portrayal of the casual cruelty of whites toward blacks.  But because of his use of racial slurs, his meaning is clouded by controversy and some readers find the book offensive.  Satire is a double-edged sword.  In the 1970s, many television viewers saluted the “Archie Bunker” show for bringing heightened social and cultural awareness to matters of race and gender.  Others claimed that it legitimized bigotry.  It’s all a matter of perception.

The British technology and opinion website The Register suggested a color-coded way to distinguish the serious from the tongue-in-cheek.  Droll insinuation would be indicated in sage green; mild sarcasm in burgundy; smarminess in ultramarine; irony in lavender; flippancy in sunflower orange; biting sarcasm in red; and humor liable to give offense would be “an insipid yellow readable only when highlighted.”  The system sounds foolproof, but I’m not so sure it would work.  How can the reader know whether the writer is being sarcastic or slyly sincere when he puts his remarks in burgundy?  As Samuel Goldwyn remarked, once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.

The proliferation of e-mail misunderstandings has led to the use of emoticons to guide the reader to a truer understanding of the writer’s meaning.  Electromyography facial studies have shown that with emoticons to indicate ironic intention, there’s less frowning and more smiling.  “Short people got little hands and little eyes, they walk around telling great big lies.”  😀  Just kidding.

“…Let [the babes] suck plentifully in the last month so as to render them plump and fat for a good table.”  😉  Wink, wink.

I predict that novels of the future will come complete with a color chart and an emoji inserted after every dangerous word and slippery meaning.  It’s all about being properly understood, right?


Book Review: The Deacon’s Demise by Dean L. Hovey

The Deacon’s Demise  
A Pine County Mystery #5
Dean L. Hovey
Dean Hovey, November 2015
ISBN: 97819382062
Trade Paperback

This is the fifth episode in Dean Hovey’s series of Pine County mysteries. His cast is made up of members of the Sheriff’s unit, with assistance from various local residents and other law enforcement agencies, as needed. The pace is steady, the development of the plot is logical and anyone with even passing familiarity of the Upper Midwest, will recognize and identify the characters.

The story centers around the efforts of a Pine County deputy sheriff to figure out a motive and identify a killer. The killer or killers caused the sudden death of a pillar of Pine Brook, Minnesota, the owner of the local hardware store and a long-time deacon of a local church. George Brown was an upright—some might say uptight—member of the community. He was upset that his church had begun to serve a far-away congregation in Mexico. Youth from the church were spending a lot of time south of the border building a church and George was unhappy. One evening, after again expressing his distrust and anger at the project, he left a deacon’s meeting to drive home. When he started the engine, his car blew up, damaging the church, injuring several members, and, of course, killing George.

Floyd Swenson, deputy sheriff is tasked to figure out who planted the bomb in Brown’s car and why. Early on, he learns that some children are being kidnapped from nearby towns and in neighboring states. There appears to be no connection, and Floyd is over his head with developments in the Brown bombing. But before long, several threads begin to tangle themselves in the Pine County case and the pace picks up dramatically.

The story is well-thought out and constructed, the dialogue is appropriate and the actions of the several characters make sense.

There are some typos, abrupt and unnecessary changes in points of view, and I wish a more readable type face had been chosen. That being said, I enjoyed the novel and recommend it to everyone interested in reading about good small-town characters engaged in solving local crimes, leading to a very satisfactory conclusion.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2017.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Death Overdue by Allison Brook

Death Overdue
A Haunted Library Mystery #1
Allison Brook
Crooked Lane Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-68331-386-1

From the publisher—

Carrie Singleton is just about done with Clover Ridge, Connecticut until she’s offered a job as the head of programs and events at the spooky local library, complete with its own librarian ghost. Her first major event is a program presented by a retired homicide detective, Al Buckley, who claims he knows who murdered Laura Foster, a much-loved part-time library aide who was bludgeoned to death fifteen years earlier. As he invites members of the audience to share stories about Laura, he suddenly keels over and dies.

The medical examiner reveals that poison is what did him in and Carrie feels responsible for having surged forward with the program despite pushback from her director. Driven by guilt, Carrie’s determined to discover who murdered the detective, convinced it’s the same man who killed Laura all those years ago. Luckily for Carrie, she has a friendly, knowledgeable ghost by her side. But as she questions the shadows surrounding Laura’s case, disturbing secrets come to light and with each step Carrie takes, she gets closer to ending up like Al.

Carrie has itchy feet, never staying in one town very long, and she’s just about ready to take a hike again when the library director in Clover Ridge offers her a full-time position to head up programs and events. Her immediate reaction is that she doesn’t want to be tied down but a ghostly voice in her ear prompts her to at least ask for details. When Evelyn Havers reveals herself to Carrie, it’s all Carrie can do to not freak out but she’s really distracted by the frightening idea of actually settling down.

So, when Carrie decides to stay in town and accept the job, she jumps in with enthusiasm, taking on the position’s pleasures as well as its normal glitches plus some pointed small acts of sabotage by the woman who wanted the job. Carrie finds a way, with Evelyn’s help, to get Dorothy to stop and peace descends on the library, at least momentarily, until guest speaker Al Buckley, a former police detective, drops dead during a presentation regarding new evidence in the cold case murder of Laura Foster fifteen years earlier. Carrie immediately suspects foul play, contrary to her boss’s belief, but it’s days later before the police say that Al was poisoned.

As with many cozies, Carrie really hasn’t got any valid reason to investigate but that’s OK with me. I enjoyed going along as she followed one clue after another to finally get to the truth and she’s smarter than many amateur sleuths, avoiding the TSTL syndrome although she does suffer from running her mouth too much 😉 A plethora of potential murderers keep her busy as does a bit of romance but even that has its own surprises. Speaking of surprises, I was more than a little bemused by Carrie’s reaction to having a ghost in her life.

With Halloween right around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better for this supernatural cozy and, while Carrie can be abysmally self-absorbed and downright immature, I do like her and I adore Evelyn. The icing on the cake is the library setting, my second favorite book-related backdrop, and Carrie is actually a pretty good sleuth with this first case…or, two cases, in reality. I’m going to be eagerly awaiting the next adventure hoping especially to spend much more time with Evelyn.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.