Book Review: First Contact by Kat Green

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Title: First Contact
Series: Haunts for Sale #1
Author: Kat Green
Narrator: Kate Tyler
Publication Date: November 9, 2017

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First Contact
Haunts for Sale #1
Kat Green
Narrated by Kate Tyler
The Wild Rose Press, November 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Sloane Osborne is a paranormal real estate agent in the business of selling haunted houses, but, in truth, she’s only searching for one ghost. And her time is running out.

It’s the 366th day after her fiancé’s death. Michael used to like putting things off for “a year and a day” – so tonight’s the night. Sloane will do anything to make contact with him before the clock strikes midnight. When she gets a call to check out a home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it’s the last place she thinks Michael would contact her.

Sloane is dead wrong.

This is one of those books that you just have to throw disbelief and credulity to the wind and enjoy the story for what it is. The good thing is it’s well-told and fun enough to keep me going.

Yes, it’s sadly true that the protagonist, Sloane, is TSTL and also driven by an obsesssion to see her fiance one last time before he leaves this dimension for the next because, you see, he died a year ago. To be more specific, he died 365 days, 21 hours and 36 minutes ago so she only has 2 hours and some minutes before his “year and a day” is up. This was my first hint that I was going to have some trouble with this book as obsession of any kind is a red flag for me. Add to that the location; Michael and Sloane didn’t live and he didn’t die in Wisconsin so why would his ghostly presence be there?

Sloane also is blind to all sorts of hints and clues that maybe, just maybe, she shouldn’t do certain things but, hey, that’s what TSTL is all about, right? Anyway, she stumbles into what could be a very dangerous situation when she discovers a house overflowing with ghosts and, at last, her obsession takes second place to trying to help these ghosts escape this mortal plane, hopefully before she becomes one of them. Oh, and there’s a potential romance in her future if her and Michael’s best friend, Jonah, can find her before it’s too late.

Seriously, I did enjoy this story (although I didn’t care for the graphic and unnecessary sex scene) and I especially liked the narrator, Kate Tyler. Her tone and cadence are really pleasing and she does different voices, male and female, quite well. The next book in the series, Second Sight, isn’t out in audio yet but I’ll be looking for it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2018.

About the Author

Kat Green is really the alias of authors KAT de Falla and Rachel GREEN.

Rachel Green has always believed in ghosts but saw her first full body apparition while working at an old movie theater in college. When she met Kat de Falla at a writer’s workshop, she knew she’d met a kindred spirit – one who was also sensitive to the hereafter. And after bonding on a few ghost adventures, Kat Green was born.

Kat lived in a haunted house for too long. When things really heated up, she had several paranormal teams investigate, but things only got worse. When her mother suggested they contact a shaman, she agreed to come, saying she had been waiting for Kat’s call. The home was cleansed and sold. When she paired up with Rachel Green, the idea of co-writing a book with a paranormal real estate agent seemed perfect.

With their combined paranormal “experiences”, they decided to combine their creative mojo. That’s when Sloane Osborne, Paranormal Real Estate agent, and the HAUNTS FOR SALE series was born.

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About the Narrator

Kate Tyler is an audiobook narrator and producer with several published audiobooks available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.  A background in drama and a successful career in voiceover, Kate lives with her family in San Diego and enjoys swimming, running, cycling and stand up paddleboard.

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Book Review: Monsterland by Michael Okon

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Book Reviews: Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older, The Call by Peadar O. Guilin and Better to Wish by Ann M. Martin

Shadowhouse Fall
The Shadowshaper Cypher Book 2
Daniel José Older
Arthur A. Levine Books, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-95282-8
Hardcover

Sierra and her wildly creative companions were captivating in Shadowshaper.   Clever consolidation of mad musical, verbal and graffiti-art skills created a dazzling cultural kaleidoscope that pulsated from the pages, and showed more than the shadowshaping-side of life in Brooklyn.  The sequel, Shadowhouse Fall, is every bit as delightful and dazzling, even as it tackles topics that parallel today’s headlines in an eerily accurate and chilling way.

Sierra has just learned of her role as the archetypal spirit, Lucera, “…the beating heart of the shadowshaping world.”  Never one to shirk responsibility, always a fierce protector; she’s doggedly immersed herself in learning, teaching and practicing shadowshaping.  Before she even begins to realize her potential, Sierra is forced to shift her focus.

The Sisterhood of the Sorrows had vowed revenge when Sierra “jacked up their shrine last summer,” precisely what Sierra and ‘her’ shadowshapers are preparing for; but no one could have predicted an attack so soon. It should have ben impossible.  Unless…the Sorrows are not alone.

To even stand a chance against an unknown in the urban spirituality system, each shadowshaper will need to be strong and smart independently; swift to support and assist when needed.  Basically, battling as they live, to save the community they dearly love.  Accustomed to every day prejudices and profiling, Sierra and her friends knew to expect hassle, rather than help, from the largely racist civil servants.

Mr. Older’s scintillating style swiftly hooks even the reluctant reader.  The scramble to fight the good fight is gripping and the escalation towards the end, engrossing.  When Sierra is left with only two choices, neither of which would result in a happy ending for her; Mr. Older presents a decision that, while not actually surprising, is absolutely unexpected.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2017.

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The Call
The Call, Book 1

Peadar O’Guilin
David Fickling Books, August 2016
ISBN 978-1338045611
Hardcover

Nessa was celebrating her 10th birthday when her childhood abruptly ended.  Instead of giving gifts and baking a cake, her parents explain The Call.

The little girl that built an emotional armor against people’s perceptions; both the pitying looks as well as the ones filled with contempt and disbelief, is intelligent enough to understand the uselessness of her efforts.  Her legs, twisted by polio into more of a hindrance than a help, have gone from a focal point to a genuine liability.

Held hostage and wholly isolated these Irish folks have but one focus: teaching the children to survive The Call.  From the age of ten through the teenage years, training is vigorous and relentless.  Just shy of cruel, the grueling paces are unquestionably a necessary evil.  Almost one in ten survive today, an exponential improvement over the one in one hundred from decades ago.  An amazing accomplishment, as fairies have an undeniable advantage when they pull a human child into their world.

Irish fairies may be my very favorite folklore creatures, and Mr. O’Guilin portrays them perfectly in The Call.  The one universal fact seems to be that fairies cannot lie and they possess a perverse pride in always keeping their word.  Bad to the core, but bound by these rules, Sidhe are as clever and cunning as they are cruel.

The hideous game of fairy versus human, produces a plot that is exciting, fast-paced and adventurous, accented with awesome action scenes.  Of course, nothing is so simple and definite in reality and Mr. O’Guilin does not settle for solely myth against man.   Most humans are considerate, committed to the greater good; but a few are slimy and self-serving.  Mystique makes the tale even more compelling and builds suspense creating compulsory page-turning.  Coupled with colorful, captivating characters and sharp and witty dialogue, The Call is a brilliant book that I enjoyed immensely.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2017.

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Better to Wish
Family Tree Series, Book 1
Ann M. Martin
Scholastic Press, May 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-35942-9
Hardcover

Initial intrigue blossomed into complete captivation as Abby’s narration revealed an inexplicably sweet, strong and resilient girl—a compassionate, sympathetic soul–in spite of circumstances.  The centenarian’s story begins on a summer evening in 1930.  As one memory leads to another, her life unfolds like a map.

Abby’s father feels that Maine should be “white”.  Specifically, Protestant and Republican.  His daughters aren’t allowed to befriend a girl because her parents emigrated from Quebec—she’s “French”, not “white”.  Also below his determined Nichols’ Family Standards; “lazy bums…Irish-Catholics.”  Certainly vocal with his opinion, he nevertheless does not seem to stand out to the family, or the community, as a particularly obnoxious, racist fool.

Although Abby’s mother has many bad days with “her mind stuck thinking” of two tremendous losses that left permanent holes in her heart; Dad wants a son.  Baby Fred arrives.  At home, Dad can pretend that Fred is developing, learning and growing at an average rate. Abby, Rose and their mother know differently, but it has no impact on their love and devotion to the charming child.

At the age of 5, Fred behaves like any toddler—including the time he is forced to sit through a high school awards ceremony.  Due to the perceived public embarrassment, the head of the household deems his son less than perfect.  Imperfection is unacceptable, leaving Mr. Nichols with no choice.  He informs the family after exercising his “only” option.

Throughout the tumultuous times,  Abby intuitively empathizes and instinctively protects those she loves and holds dear first, all other human beings second, thinking of her own wants and needs last, if at all.   Abby is the epitome of “good people” and her story instills hope.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2017.

Book Reviews: Wickedpedia by Chris Van Etten and Deadout by Jon McGoran

WickedpediaWickedpedia
Chris Van Etten
Point Horror, July 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-41587-3
Trade Paperback

 

Cole Redeker is a straight A student, a champ on the debate team, and works at perfecting his pie crust recipe. Such a perfect son that his parents learn to accept his friend Gavin, a slacker who plays bass in an awful garage band. Gavin’s two favorite phrases are “It’ll be fun. I promise.” And “Told you so.”

Cole’s auburn haired girlfriend, Winnie, choir soloist and tennis player, dumps him for Josh, the school’s star soccer player. When Cole discovers that Josh has been copying his history essays from Wikipedia, he and Gavin hatch a plan. History teacher Mr. Drick frowns on sloppy and lazy research, and knowing that Josh is writing a paper on serial killers, Cole plants false Wikipedia articles full of ridiculous facts. When Josh is caught, he is put on academic probation and suspended from the team.

When Josh’s best friend and teammate is discovered dead in the gymnasium, Gavin discovers a Wikipedia entry that foretold his particularly gruesome death. When another friend is partially blinded and burned by poisoned eye drops, Cole realizes that someone is after the students and wonders who will be next.

A good portion of the story is told by Instant Messages among the various students. While the deaths are horrible, the details are not lingered on. Still, not a book for the easily upset.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2015.

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DeadoutDeadout
Carrick & Watkins #2
Jon McGoran
Forge, June 2015
ISBN 978-0-7653-7008-2
Mass Market Paperback

A three-day visit to Martha’s Vineyard to visit an old friend who is working there, keeping track of bees needed to pollinate crops, turns out to be more than Philadelphia detective Doyle Carrick and his girlfriend, Nola, probably bargained for.  They discover the bee population is fast disappearing and the cause is a mystery.  Nola gets a job manually pollinating plants on a farm and Doyle ends up hanging around, then becoming embroiled in helping to solve the situation.

A lesser plot is the love interest: Doyle and Nola’s hot-and-cold relationship; her association with the young, handsome employer, making Doyle jealous; and his relationship with a beautiful female scientist, raising an equal emotion in Nola.  Of course, both these other characters play a vital role in the main plot.

The action is fast and furious, and the plot moves forward at a rapid pace.  And to boot, there are additional facets to complicate the reader’s progress, including high stakes corporate machinations.  (And we probably learn more about bees and genetics than we ever wished.)

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2015.

Book Review: Charlotte’s Story by Laura Benedict—and a Giveaway!

Charlotte's StoryCharlotte’s Story
A Bliss House Novel #2
Laura Benedict
Pegasus Crime, October 2015
ISBN 978-1605988788
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The fall of 1957 was a seemingly idyllic, even prosperous, time down in southern Virginia. A young housewife, Charlotte Bliss, lives with her husband, “Press” Bliss, and their two young children, Eva Grace and Michael, in the gorgeous Bliss family home. On the surface, theirs seems a calm, picturesque life, but soon tragedy befalls them: four deaths, with seemingly simple explanations.

But nothing is simple if Bliss House is involved.

Charlotte, nearly crippled with grief, feels more and more isolated from everyone around her. The only thing that brings her solace is going through the old photos and curiosities left behind by her mother-in-law. Then she makes a startling discovery that points not to tragedy, but to murder. How far will Charlotte go to discover the truth? And how far will she get without knowing who her real enemy is?

Not for the faint of heart, or those disturbed by sexual situations and violence, Charlotte‘s Story injects new levels of horror into the classic Southern gothic.

When I was first offered the opportunity to review Charlotte’s Story, I jumped right on it. I was unfamiliar with Laura Benedict or the first book in the trilogy, Bliss House, but I was immediately captivated by the notion that the setting for the house in question is Virginia, my home state. I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed 😉

Melding a ghost story with a mystery and a far-reaching, torturous family dynamic is pretty much the essence of a Southern gothic and Ms. Benedict does this quite well. Almost from the first page, there’s an aura of creepiness rather than fright and, as the word indicates, the feeling creeps up on the reader more and more as time goes on till you find yourself mired in a sense of doom and total sympathy for Charlotte, a woman being driven to madness. There’s also a lot of sadness here, not only with multiple deaths but also in the downward spiral of love and trust.

I did feel that the story is too slow to develop and I put the book down a couple of times. Still, I couldn’t just walk away from it and I’m glad I stuck with it. The pace does pick up and, long before I reached the very unexpected ending, I was madly turning pages to see what would happen next. Appropriately, Ms. Benedict left me wishing the third book, The Abandoned Heart, was ready to read but, alas, I’ll have to wait a while.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2015.

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About the Author

Laura BenedictLaura Benedict is the author of Charlotte‘s Story and Bliss House, the first two novels in the Bliss House trilogy, as well as several other novels of dark suspense. Her work has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. She lives with her family in Southern Illinois. Visit laurabenedict.com.

Connect with Laura on Facebook and Twitter.

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Leave a comment below to enter
the drawing
for a print or ebook
copy, winner’s choice, of the first

novel in the trilogy, Bliss House by
Laura Benedict. The winning name
will be
drawn on Saturday evening,
November 21st. Print is
open to residents
of the US, ebook is open internationally.

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“Expertly paced revelations help build a sense of encroaching horror.
A satisfyingly creepy tale for a rainy night.”—Publishers Weekly

“An evocative, frightening and flawless gothic, Charlotte’s Story 
is guaranteed to send a delicious chill down your spine. Nobody
does more for the modern southern gothic than Laura Benedict.” 
—J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of What Lies Behind

“Laura Benedict spins an ever-shifting web of shadow and light.
A thrilling read. Benedict writes with passion and authority. 
Charlotte‘s Story is not to be missed.” —Carolyn Haines, author
of the Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries, and The Seeker

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Book Review: The Letting by Cathrine Goldstein

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Title: The Letting
Author: Cathrine Goldstein
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: December 15, 2014
Genres: YA/NA, Dystopian

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The LettingThe Letting
Cathrine Goldstein
The Wild Rose Press, December 2014
ISBN 978-1-62830-662-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What if the Devil doesn’t know he’s the Devil?

This is the question Veronica “Ronnie” Billings poses to Phoenix, her sworn enemy, the leader of the Peaceful Revolution, and the one she loves.

Kidnapped by Phoenix’s rebels, Ronnie learns how wrong she has been. She had no idea that her patriotism was wasted on a corrupt government. Ronnie was proud to be a Leader; taking hundreds of harvested girls to the Letting facility. After all, she was saving them from future Couplings and bringing them to the safety of the New World. Or so she thought…

Confused, Ronnie realizes the only way to discover the truth is to trust her heart. Together, Phoenix and Ronnie devise a plan to stop their corrupt government and preempt the dangerous rebel coup which is approaching. But when their plan goes awry, will Ronnie be strong enough to save Phoenix, her country, and herself?

When we first meet Ronnie, she’s a sort of camp counselor but this camp is unlike any we’ve ever seen. For starters, the kids (all young girls) are housed together by blood type, the first hint we have that this may not be a wonderful place. Blood type O, by the way, is almost extinct and that matters because O is the universal donor.

We can’t be sure in the beginning precisely what’s going on because the author has created a maze of facts and suppositions but, once I started to catch on, I was enthralled by the premise and by Ronnie herself. This girl, kept in the camp for years, ostensibly because there’s something wrong with her blood, has made a name for herself as uniquely adept with the children who need to be prepared for the Letting. The Letting is an ordeal but the rewards are great—so they say—and Ronnie has never questioned her part.

Until one night when all will go topsy-turvy and Ronnie will learn what she’s really been doing.

I felt a real attachment to Ronnie and to a number of other characters. Phoenix, in particular, is an appealing young man and I thought his relationship with Ronnie grew naturally, only moderately taking on the dreaded aspect of insta-love. Ronnie became a force to be reckoned with right before my eyes while holding on to her essential kindness and other players, while not nearly so “nice”, shall we say, were vividly drawn and, in more than one case, made chills run up and down my spine.

Worldbuilding is not entirely clear but that’s okay because we haven’t heard all the story yet. I don’t especially want to know all the details at this point; I’m hoping a second book is in the works and the author will share more 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2014.

About the Author

Cathrine GoldsteinGiven my love for cities and all that is gritty, my new obsession with trees really has me stumped. (Sorry.) Maybe it’s because trees are the inspiration behind my new YA/NA novel, The Letting.

Whatever the reason for my new infatuation, some things remain constant — like my love for: coffee (although sadly, it’s now decaf); yoga; Luna bars (I am petitioning for them to bring back Chocolate Raspberry!); running in my neighborhood; Hemingway; Bukowski… and, above all, my husband and my girls.

I am the author of the bestselling novel, Sleeping With Mortals: The Story of a New York Mistress, and I’m also a playwright. I have my B.A. in English and my M.A. in Theatre.

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Book Reviews: Darkness Trilogy Books One and Two by L. M. Justus

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BOOK ONE:
Title: Welcome to the Darkness
Series: Darkness Trilogy #1
Author: L.M. Justus
Publication date: August 5th 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

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BOOK TWO:
Title: Darkness Reigns
Series: Darkness Trilogy #2
Author: L.M. Justus
Publication date: June 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

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Welcome to the DarknessWelcome to the Darkness
Darkness Trilogy #1
L.M. Justus
Taurpio Publishing, August 2013
ISBN 978-0-9919368-0-9
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A typical teenager, seventeen-year-old Reed Hennessy doesn’t realize how lucky he is to lead a normal life until he loses everything, including his humanity. The attacker who slaughters his family and destroys their home turns out to be a vampire, a creature Reed had considered a myth.

Now a vampire himself, but with the unique ability to walk in sunlight, Reed struggles in the dark underworld he didn’t even know existed. His only two allies in his fight to stay alive are his reluctant mentor, Nathaniel, a vampire with over two hundred years’ worth of emotional baggage, and Sarah, a rookie cop with a secret ability of her own.

Together, Reed and his companions face a harrowing, cross-country journey before stumbling into a plot which could mean the end of everything for humans and vampires alike.

A brand new teenaged vampire, a slightly older rookie cop with a different sort of power and a seasoned vampire with a couple of hundred years under his belt…can this odd assortment of characters defeat the nefarious intentions of a very old and vicious vampire queen and her equally odious brother? Sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it? Well, put your pre-conceived notions aside because Welcome to the Darkness is a serious vampire book—no sparkles in sight—with overtones of sheer fun and, yes, lots of bloody dinners, so to speak.

I am perfectly aware that there are all sorts of reasons this trio should stumble in their efforts to stop a terrible scheme against humanity and, truthfully, the plot doesn’t always work. For instance, why would a plan to turn all humans into vampires be a good thing for the existing vampires since they need to feed on human blood? I also think Sarah is sometimes too naive, especially since she’s a cop. Still, little quibbles like this one don’t really matter so much because the entire cast of characters is vibrant enough to carry the story. Reed is delightful, as is Sarah, but I have to claim Nathaniel as my favorite. He may have his own issues as a “mature” vampire but, beneath his pasty exterior, he still has some rather endearing human traits.

I also really enjoyed Ms. Justus’s use of both first and third person POV and there’s no trouble following the switches since each chapter is labeled with the name of a particular character. The voices are distinctive, not only of the original three protagonists but also of many of the other players, especially a couple of folks who join the cast later.

So, can our intrepid trio and a few friends save the day? You’ll just have to read this to find out while I rush on to the next book  🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2014.

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Darkness ReignsDarkness Reigns
Darkness Trilogy #2
L.M. Justus
Taurpio Publishing,
ISBN 978-0-9919368-3-0
Trade Paperback

From the author—

New York City is a wasteland. More than eight million people are dead or worse…infected.

After their failed attempt to stop the spread of a virus that turns people into zombie-like, human-vampire hybrids, Reed Hennessy and his ragtag crew are scrambling to stay alive. To make matters worse, the human authorities are close to proving the existence of vampires and blaming them for the disaster in New York.

Their storm of trouble is already spinning out of control when an old enemy reappears to issue a challenge–an ultimatum that will mean certain death for at least one member of Reed’s group. With their mountain of problems growing exponentially and a host of enemies closing in, they flee for their lives, desperate for a miracle. Will they survive and avoid the world’s scrutiny, or will darkness prevail?

When we last saw our trio of heroes, now grown to five with at least one more reluctant than heroic, things had gone from bad to worse and now they need to get out of New York City before the hordes of former humans get to them. Reed and Nathaniel face even more difficulties as their vampire backs sport great big targets. Unfortunately for this little band, many of the survivors out there are no more trustworthy than the hybrids.

This is where I think Darkness Reigns slips just a little bit. These humans and vampires are remarkably trusting and almost innocent in their outlook, particularly when they approach a prison, and they don’t get smarter once they’re inside. The other aspect of the story that doesn’t quite work for me is the romance between Reed and Sarah. I started feeling uneasy about it in the first book and its credibility slides even more in Darkness Reigns with the problem lying in their ages. It’s not that I’m especially bothered by his being 17 as opposed to her 21 from a moral standpoint; rather, I’m too aware that the huge majority of girls mature faster than boys and Sarah has managed to make it through the police academy so I just don’t feel the big connection between these two.

Putting all that aside, I still think this book is quite entertaining and I do appreciate that there are more twists and turns than in the first book. At times, there’s a feeling of “The Perils of Pauline”, adding to the fun as well as the darker side of things and I’m now looking forward to what might happen in Book Three.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2014.

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About the Author

 

L. M. JustusLisa Justus’ path to becoming an author took a circuitous route through the University of Waterloo where she earned a Bachelor of Mathematics, followed by jobs in quality assurance and technical writing at a high-tech company. With a keen interest in creative fiction, she wrote her first fantasy novel as part of NaNoWriMo as well as an early chapter book for her kids when they were younger. Welcome to the Darkness and Darkness Reigns are the first two books of the Darkness Trilogy, a YA paranormal fantasy.

These days Lisa is busy writing her next novel, reading, finishing her basement, doing volunteer work, and trying to stay in shape by running somewhat regularly. She, her husband, and their three children live in Ottawa, Ontario.


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