Tag Archives: mythology

Screamcatcher: Sa’be Most Wanted (Screamcatcher Book 4) by Christy J. Breedlove Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Four teens and a seemingly frail old man travel into the heart of the Shasta Forest to help a woman whose husband has disappeared hunting the invaders who killed their dogs and attacked their home in author Christy J. Breedlove’s “Screamcatcher: Sa’be Most Wanted”, the fourth book in the Screamcatcher series.

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The Synopsis

Jory Pike and the Badlands Paranormal Society get a strange and frantic call from a woman who claims her property has been invaded by unknown trespassers who have terrorized her and her husband and killed their two dogs. She says her husband has gone hunting for the culprits and disappeared. The Sherriff’s office performed a routine investigation and mysteriously quit. The woman also called a first nations tribe tracker to help her, but after a short investigation, he claimed she had something more dangerous than a bear and wanted nothing to do with it.

Jory’s 91 year-old grandfather, a full blood Ojibwe, believes he knows what this mystery is all about and demands to go on the hunt.

Four teenagers and a seemingly fragile old man find out, too late, in the deep Shasta forest, that they are the ones being hunted.

The Review

I absolutely loved this novel. As a longtime fan of this series, I was thrilled to be able to jump back into this world of paranormal and high strangeness for YA readers. The way the author was able to further the narrative for the cast of characters was brilliant, as longtime fans and newcomers alike were able to connect to the characters on an emotional level, especially the protagonist and her grandfather. 

Yet it was the world-building and mythos that really stood out to me. The in-depth way the author blended and utilized Native American mythology, in particular the Ojibwa Tribe’s mythos, with the paranormal aspects of the narrative was an inspired and creative choice that kept the story feeling fresh and unique amongst other YA novels. However for me, as someone who absolutely loves the study and looking into real-life paranormal and high strangeness cases, I am well versed in the lore of both the particular creature used in this narrative and the area known as Mt. Shasta. The author’s use of this setting was so fun and captured my attention clearly. 

The Verdict

Haunting, rich, and entertaining, author Christy J. Breedlove’s “Screamcatcher: Sa’be Most Wanted” is a must-read YA paranormal thriller and fantasy read. The perfect next chapter in Jory Pike’s journey into the Screamcatcher universe, the shocking twists and turns in the narrative, as well as the identity of the true culprits behind this investigation, will leave readers hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Chris H. Stevenson, (aka Christy J. Breedlove), originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. His occupations have included newspaper reporter, front-line mechanic and federal police officer. He has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today he writes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, young adult, thrillers and horror. He has a total of 19 titles appearing on Amazon. He was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and just recently took the bronze medal for YA Horror in the Reader’s Choice Awards. He writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons and tactics), hoping to inform and educate writers all over the world about the high points and pitfalls of publishing.

https://christysyoungadultimagineers.com/

http://guerrillawarfareforwriters.blogspot.com/

To Charm A Killer (A Hollystone Mystery Book One) by W.L. Hawkin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The High Priest of a powerful coven must search for a killer who is targeting witches as Hecate issues a dreadful prophecy he must race to prevent in author W.L. Hawkin’s “To Charm a Killer”, the first book in the Hollystone Mystery Series! 

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The Synopsis

When a third witch vanishes from Vancouver, the witches of Hollystone Coven spin a charm to catch the killer. But spells ripple with repercussions, and in the ensuing chaos, an innocent seventeen-year-old girl gets caught up in the charm. As obsessed with the killer as the killer is with him, High Priest Estrada vows to find the man and stop him. Then, at their Samhain ritual, Hecate speaks through their high priestess and shocks everyone with her prophecy:

As one of you has spun the charm, now none of you are safe from harm.

One who all felt they could trust, breeds deception cloaked in lust.

One will gain their heart’s desire, while yet another pays with fire.

Before the dark of winter night, four souls pass over into light.

Once begun it cannot end, but circles round as circles bend.

To save the girl and catch the killer, Estrada journeys from the West Coast of Canada to Ireland and Beyond. Abduction, death, fire, and faeries. Who is the killer? Why is he killing witches? And how can he be stopped before Hecate’s prophecy comes true?

WL Hawkin weaves threads of Macbeth and ancient Irish myth with edgy romance in this mysterious urban fantasy. To Charm a Killer is the first in the Hollystone Mysteries series.

The Review

I have had the pleasure of reviewing quite a few books this past year from W.L. Hawkins. Her work always entertains and inspires me both as a reader and a writer, and the interesting thing about this series, in particular, is that I came into it starting with book 2 and then jumping around a bit. I’ve become quite invested in Estrada’s journey throughout this series, and getting to see the genesis of this character and the supporting cast was such a pleasure to read about.

The balance of action and mythos was so strong in this first novel. The way the author is able to integrate the supernatural and paranormal elements into the world so naturally was amazing to read. As someone who is fascinated with the real-world applications of magick, the paranormal, and the supernatural as a whole, it was great to see just how close the author was able to go through real-world practices and mythologies before integrating the more fantastic elements of the narrative.

Yet it was the mystery and suspense of the narrative that was truly great to read about. The shocking murders and the cat and mouse element of the plot between Estrada and the killer kept me hooked on the author’s narrative. Being able to keep the reader guessing the killer’s identity as the clues begin to unravel before them was such a fun aspect of the plot, and kept me on the edge of my seat.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thought-provoking, author W.L. Hawkin’s “To Charm a Killer” is a must-read novel and a great first book in the Hollystone Mystery series! The twists and turns in the narrative and globe-spanning mystery blended well into the mythology and supernatural deep dive into witchcraft, magick, and the paranormal as a whole, making this a thrilling story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

W. L. Hawkin writes myth, magic, and mayhem designed to inspire and entertain. Described as “intoxicating, lush, magically-edgy, page-turners,” her Hollystone Mysteries series features a coven of witches who solve murders using their wits and ritual magic with a little help from the gods. Wendy is also a published blogger, book reviewer, Indie publisher, and poet, with a background in Indigenous Studies and English literature. She loves myth and magic, so when she’s not writing, she’s studying Druidry, shamanism, and mediumship. Although she is an introvert, in each book, her characters go on a journey where she has traveled herself.

She defies genre by writing character-driven fast-paced mysteries and thrillers that involve fantastical characters. See her four book series: To Charm a Killer, To Sleep with Stones, To Render a Raven, and To Kill a King.

Her latest book, Lure, is set on a Chippewa Reservation in the American Midwest and tells the story of Jesse & Hawk.

Song To The Siren by Barbara Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two documentary filmmakers go on an intense journey to discover the truth behind the untimely death of an indie rockstar who may or may not have been struggling with some very real ghosts in authors Barbara Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper’s “Song To The Siren”.

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The Synopsis

When two young documentary filmmakers start investigating the enigmatic death of the infamous Reed Sinclair, founder of the never-quite-made-it indie rock group The Big Carnival, by interviewing Reed’s former girlfriend, photographer Samantha (“Sam”) MacNamara, she tells them the story of a seeming love triangle between herself, Reed, and a frightening entity named Belle. Belle may have simply been how Reed’s troubled mental state interpreted multiple tragedies and coincidences in his life… or she may have been a supernatural being…

The Review

This was such an engaging and mesmerizing read. The story does an incredible job of delving into a multitude of genres that keep the reader guessing, from paranormal and mythology-driven fantasy to dramatic mental health and romantic suspense novels. The themes of mental health, fame and its impact on those who achieve it, and the hidden mysteries of life itself, all played such a pivotal role in the narrative, and how these characters connected to one another. 

I loved the pacing and the formatting of this novel. The use of Sam as the narrator of sorts as the filmmakers interview her throughout the book really gave a unique 3rd person perspective to the story, and allowed for some distance between the reader and the characters in question, aka Reed and “Belle”, so that the question of Belle’s existence continuously played a role in the narrative as the story progressed. It was such an engaging story.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thoughtful, author Barbara Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper’s “Song To The Siren” is a must-read paranormal and mythological story. The utilization of the indie-rock scene as a setting for emotional character growth and the mystery of “Belle” overall made this one novel reader won’t want to miss. Be on the lookout for this book starting this fall! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Barb is originally from Minnesota. She was a radio DJ for a while in college, and then she grew up to become a guitarist/singer-songwriter and got an album put out on the Imp label. However, she also had health issues: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia and extreme environmental sensitivities and allergies. (She also has Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to issues involving her family of origin.)

For a while, brain fog from the CFS and the fibro made it harder for her to read long and involved works of fiction… So (since she’d always loved them in her childhood) she got into reading comics and graphic novels, particularly the comparatively avant-garde work coming out at that time from DC Comics.

Now we pop over to Park, in central Texas. Like Barb, Park also read comics (and a LOT of books) in his youth as well (a lot more sci-fi and fantasy books than Barb, and a lot more Marvel comics than Barb). Then he started college and said “I need an extra hobby or something. Maybe I’ll get back into comics again.” He started doing so, including reading the comparatively avant-garde work coming out at that time from DC Comics…

Then someone in the letter columns of the comic Sandman announced that they were doing a fanzine for readers of that comic. Barb and Park both wrote in.

Barb and Park became aware of one another… Park liked the writing Barb submitted to the fanzine, and he wrote to Barb, and they began writing to each other. Then they started talking on the phone… they fell in love… they started visiting one another…

Reader, they got married (to each other).

Barb wrote for the award-winning website Sequential Tart, made by women about comics and other popular culture things, and Barb wrote a lot of reviews and articles (especially articles)

Park and Barb had a column online for a now-defunct website entitled The Park and Barb show (about the same sorts of things) for 12 years…

A little after they started those things, Barb started writing her comic Gun Street Girl…

A little after that, they started adapting and editing manga for major American publishers importing manga (and sometimes their South Korean and Chinese counterparts) from the far side of the Pacific. Honestly, there were too many to keep track of… lots and lots of titles. Near the end of this, Barb and Park wrote the manga pitch The Hidden for TokyoPop, perfectly timed to appear the week that that company fell apart.

Then Barb and Park wrote the sci-fi vampire graphic novel Half Dead.

Somewhere around this time, Park successfully completed his Ph.D. in literature, and then Barb and Park wrote the vampire prose novel Something More Than Blood.

Eventually Park started writing his cyberpunk comic Swipe for Angry Viking Press.

(You can read more about all of the above projects elsewhere on this website!)

There were also other various short stories (and a novel, in one case) and non-manga-related editing jobs, too many to bother counting here…

These days, Barb and Park live happily together in Austin, Texas.

https://parkgsg.wixsite.com/wickermanstudios/home

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057705847859

Upon the Arrival of Dawn by Joseph A. Schiller Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Lone celestial being Azrael goes in search of the means of stopping a threat that can destroy the universe itself in author Joseph A. Schiller’s “Upon the Arrival of Dawn”.

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The Synopsis

A darkness grows, threatening the delicate fabric of the Universe. An ominous cloud spreads, bringing an increasing imbalance across the Cosmos. Essences bent on wickedness and ultimate destruction are violently stripping the Energy of Life from innocent terrestrial creatures, bringing Existence to the very brink of collapse. Only one Celestial essence boldly accepts the calling to seek out the source of the encroaching evil and restore Harmony once again to Existence. Azrael, humble servant of Eternity, offspring of Existence, will stop at nothing to protect the Universe, mortal and immortal alike. 

The Review

This was such a well-developed and engaging story. The author did a brilliant job of crafting a unique and imaginative narrative. The balance between the “terrestrial and non-terrestrial planes) was a great way of capturing a unique setting. The almost cinematic and artistic style of writing the author utilized here made the story feel almost dreamlike, and an added depth of morality and themes of existence itself conjured up similar imagery as Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman”.

The heart of the narrative was very character driven, which was ironic given the main characters represented celestial beings who had forgone a true sense of self before the events of the narrative. The evolution of Azrael in particular was great to see, as the cosmic battles and mythos the author developed for him balanced well with the more personal growth the character saw, especially when meeting the Earthbound Johanna.

The Verdict

Mind-bending, thought-provoking, and engaging, author Joseph A. Schiller’s “Upon the Arrival of Dawn” is a must-read fantasy and sci-fi novel. The breathtaking imagery used in the narrative to help bring these cosmic beings and settings to life and the balance struck between this and the more intimate and “human” moments allowed readers to connect to both the protagonist and the narrative simultaneously. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I have always, for as long as I can remember, found a creative outlet with the written word.  From as early as elementary school I have enjoyed writing short fictional stories.  In the 6th grade I was blessed to be able to take a creative writing class as an elective.  It was during that course that my confidence, interest, and exploration of writing really took off.  It was during my freshman year of college that I made my first attempt to write a novel.  Unfortunately, that work was lost when the desktop I had at the time crashed.  It took me a few years before the inspiration returned.  Once it did, though, I grabbed ahold of it, and have held on tight ever since.

My opinion of my writing is nearly identical to that of my artwork.  I do not write for the purpose of pleasing others.  I will be perfectly happy if I am the only person that ultimately reads my stories.  Like my artwork, my written works are an extension of who I am.  In the end, if some find my stories entertaining, then it is icing on the cake.

When reading for pleasure I tend to have a fairly varied set of interests ranging from fiction to non-fiction, novel’s to essays.  However, my literary interests when writing are almost entirely fiction based.

http://josephschiller.weebly.com/authorship.html

https://facebook.com/UpontheArrivalofDawn

Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman finds her world turned upside down when a handsome stranger enters her life from another time, and together they discover fate’s plans for them when a rogue threat targets her for a power she never knew she had in author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time”.

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The Synopsis

Romance, Celtic mythology, and adventure swirl together in this time travel fantasy by #1 New York Times bestselling author, booktuber, and popular Outlander social media influencer Sasha Alsberg.

Fate brought them together. Time will tear them apart.

When a mysterious Scotsman suddenly appears in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and his arrival marks the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara soon learns she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world. After being unable to protect the previous Pillar, Callum believes he’s fated to protect her. But now a dark force is hunting the Pillars—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. They’ll have to learn to trust each other and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive

The Review

This was such a powerful and entertaining new read! The author did such an incredible job of world-building in this narrative. Each scene felt vibrant and alive on the page, thanks to the author’s incredible handle on imagery in her writing and the atmosphere she builds as the narrative progresses. The striking balance the author struck between the rich mythology of the world she created and the intimate and emotional character growth was superb. As a huge fan of mythology in general, I was immediately drawn into this narrative, but what was really fun was being introduced to new mythological figures and stories, and the intricacies of Celtic mythology definitely drew me into the story so much that I’ll be researching the mythos myself, really adding to the author’s ability to draw readers in. 

Yet it was the rich character development that really drew me in further and further into the story. The multiple POVs were great to have, as they added depth to both Callum’s and Klara’s stories. Their backstories and the eras from which they hail and the instant chemistry and discoveries they make about themselves along the way were truly inviting to behold on the page. Even the antagonist, who emerges from the shadows and strikes into the heart of these two protagonists, was chilling and haunting to behold and did a great job of becoming the hero’s foil in the narrative. 

The Verdict

Captivating, engaging, and brilliantly written, author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time” is a must-read YA Historical Fantasy meets Time Travel story and one of my top picks for best reads of 2022. The author does a great job of traversing the influences of other series such as Outlander and The Mortal Instruments, and yet feels so original and authentic on its own at the same time, bringing magic back into the Historical Fantasy meets Highland genre. With a twist ending that left this reader eager to read more, you guys won’t want to miss out on this spectacular story. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Sasha Alsberg is the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Zenith, the first book in The Androma Saga. When Sasha is not writing or obsessing over Scotland, she is galavanting across social media with her two dogs, Fraser & Fiona. Sasha lives in London, England.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.sashaalsberg.com/ 

Twitter: @sashaalsberg

Instagram: @sashaalsberg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sasha.alsberg 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15100575.Sasha_Alsberg 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Time-Sasha-Alsberg/dp/1335284893 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breaking-

time-sasha-alsberg/1140332910 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335284891 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Breaking-Time/Sasha-Alsberg/9781335284891 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/ch/audiobook/breaking-time/id1591477301 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Sasha_Alsberg_Breaking_Time?id=5TlHEAAAQBAJ 

Please enjoy this excerpt from Author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time”

Excerpted from BREAKING TIME by Sasha Alsberg, © 2022 by Sasha Alsberg, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.

Callum

1568

“Thomas!” Callum yelled as he left the pub. The wall of crisp night air dizzied him, causing him to stumble over cobblestones that seemed to shift beneath his feet. Drunken laughter muff led as the door slammed shut behind him. 

“Where the hell are ye?” he shouted. His voice echoed through the deserted streets. 

No answer came. 

Lanterns flickered along the main road, setting the heavy fog aglow. In a wee town like Rosemere, the slightest whispers could be heard a mile away. They carried farther than that, Callum knew; the windows around him were shuttered, but candles burned low just inside. How many prying eyes watched from behind the slats? How many would speak of his friend, the disgraced fighter, in hushed voices at tomorrow’s market, over bread bought with the coin they’d won betting on him mere weeks earlier?

Callum clenched his fists. The whole pub had shouted and jeered while Thomas got pummeled that night. Sounds still rang in Callum’s ears: the thud of fist and flesh, the sickening crunch of bone. It was the third time this month that Thomas had lost—only the third time, in two years of fighting.

Brice would be angry.

Master, keeper, devil, father. Brice MacDonald was all of these things to Callum and Thomas. Whatever Brice’s wrath tonight, Callum could not let Thomas face it alone. Not when Thomas had looked after Callum for so long, raised him up from a nipper as well as a real older brother would.

But he would not abandon Thomas like his mother had abandoned him.

The thought sobered Callum. He called again, lowering his voice to a taunt.

“Thomas! You owe me three shillings!” Thomas could usually be drawn out with a jab.

Callum paused, straining his ears for a response but was met with unease instead. An owl watched from its perch atop the baker’s roof, golden eyes unblinking against the dark night sky. The shining orbs fixed on him.

He tore his gaze from the bird and walked on, moving away from the firelight and into shadow.

Even more worrisome than Brice was the fact that Thomas had given Callum his most treasured item earlier that night: his notebook, small sheaths of vellum bound in leather. When he first began carrying it around, Thomas claimed to have stolen it from the apothecary when he went in for a poultice. 

He had kept it on him, always, and had never let Callum lay eyes on what was inside. Yet he had pressed it into Callum’s hand, just before the match tonight. He said something to Callum when he did, but his words were inaudible within the roar of the pub. Then after, he disappeared from the pub without even a goodbye.

Now Callum was wandering the streets, alone.

It was unlike Thomas to behave so strangely, to lose so badly. The Thomas he knew—boyish and rowdy, tough as leather but never mean—had fallen away with the autumn leaves these past months. Instead of spending evenings at The Black Hart Inn, weaving stories he’d learned as a child of selkies and sailors for red-cheeked barmaids until the sun rose, Thomas began to disappear for days, weeks at a time—stretches too long for Callum to explain to Brice. He took a beating or two for it, too. When Thomas returned, he was sullen, sometimes violent, and consumed by a strangeness Callum had no words to describe. His eyes stared but did not see, as distant as stars burning in his skull. If he spoke at all, he told tales of the demons that terrified them as children: like the Sluagh, spirits of the dead who wandered in flocks, flying around the sky like soaring reapers and stealing souls, flesh hanging off them like blackened rags. Or the bean-nighe, banshees, messengers from the Otherworld and omens of death, who lingered in lonely streams, washing the clothes of doomed men. Normally Callum heard of such dark creatures within the stories of heroes, but Thomas’s stories didn’t end in life…but death. He fixated on that fact, as if it were coming for him.

I saw her, he’d said of the bean-nighe. I refuse to die. 

It worried Callum, but just as his worry morphed into confrontation, Thomas would come back to himself. This was enough to comfort Callum as he watched Thomas return to tales of ancient heroes and kings. Maybe he accepted his relief too soon since the nights of those stories were fewer these days, and more often Thomas’s speech would turn dark again. He would speak of strange visions, of men who leaped from one world to the next.

They’re coming, Cal, you’ll see. It’s as simple as stepping through a veil.

Who’s coming, Thomas? What veil? Callum asked, and Thomas would laugh.

It was no tale that Callum knew. He’d warned Thomas not to tell it. He didn’t like the wary looks it earned him. It was one thing to be a bard who told these stories for a living, but it was another thing to speak like a madman of evil spirits and fairies as if they were tangible things away from the lyrics of a song or the pages of a book.

Callum reached the end of the main road—the turn for Kelpie’s Close. If you wanted trouble, you found it in Kelpie’s. The narrow backstreet edged Rosemere like a blade pressed against the town’s throat.

A chill clung to his skin. Here, there were no lanterns to light the way, his only guide sparse slivers of moonlight. The wind picked up suddenly, lifting his hair and reaching under his woolen cloak. He tried to shake off visions of the Sluagh hovering above him, raking their cold fingers down his neck.

“It’s as dark as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat,” he mumbled.

Callum reached for the dirk tucked under his arm and found the carved handle concealed under layers of wool, feeling a sting of guilt. It was Thomas’s knife. Callum had slipped it away from him before the match, worried about what his friend might do in the crowded pub if he got enough drink in him. He tapped it, drawing enough strength to plunge into the darkness.

“Scunner!” he cursed, meaning it. “Where are you?”

A cry pierced the quiet.

Callum’s heart pounded as he followed the sound farther down the alley. He pulled the dirk from under his arm, certain now that he’d need to use it.

“Thomas?”

Unease, cold and metallic, crept up his spine. The alley appeared empty—strange, for this time of night—but the silence was thick, alive with a feeling Callum couldn’t name. He pushed on, deeper into the gloom. “Thomas?”

Another strangled cry, ahead.

Callum broke into a run.

A single lantern flickered a short distance away, casting a wan glow over a lone figure slumped against the wall. A sweep of red hair, bright even in the dim alley.

“Thomas, ye bastard, do ye ken what—”

The insult lodged in his throat. Thomas lay on the ground, his legs splayed at sickening angles. Blood seeped through his shirt, blooming like ink on paper. Callum rushed to his friend and knelt beside him. He dropped the dirk and pressed his hands against the deep slice that marred his friend’s torso. A knife wound.

“Dinnae fash, Thomas, dinnae fash,” Callum repeated, voice tight and panicked. He glanced up, searching for friend or foe, and found no one. “We’ll be back to the pub before Anderson kens we havna paid our tab.” 

Thomas stared up at him with glassy blue eyes. With each shuddering breath, more blood spilled through Callum’s fingers. He ripped the cloth stock from his neck and pressed the fabric onto the wound. It did little to stem the flow of blood. Within a few heartbeats, the cloth was soaked through, red and dripping.

If he pressed any harder, would it be doing more harm than good? Should he call for help, though it might draw the attacker? Callum hadn’t a clue. He wished suddenly, ferociously, that he’d had a proper mother, one whose wisdom he could call upon to calmly guide his hands. However, Thomas was the only family he had.

His only family was dying.

Thomas opened his mouth, but instead of words, a wet cough came out, splattering red across his pale face.

“Dinnae move, Thomas,” Callum shushed him. His uncertainty gave way to desperation, burst from his throat. “Help! Help us!”

His words dissolved into the night air, leaving behind only a tightness at the center of his chest. If he hadn’t taken Thomas’s dirk, he would have been able to defend himself, he wouldn’t be dying in Callum’s arms—

Thomas gasped, but it seemed as if no air reached his lungs.

Lowering his head, Callum gripped Thomas’s hands, though his own were shaking. “I will find the man who did this, I swear—”

Then the world flipped sideways. A blow had hit Callum like a runaway carriage, throwing him against the alley wall opposite Thomas.

Pain exploded along his ribs. Grasping the mossy wall for purchase, he struggled to his feet and wiped blood from his eyes, scouring the darkness for his attacker—and found no one.

“Show your face,” he growled.

A cruel whisper cut through the quiet. “Are you certain?”

The man emerged from the shadows as if he had been one with them. He wore a dark black cloak, in stark contrast to his unkempt, pale hair. Deep set in his face, a pair of amber eyes seemed to emit their own light. Callum’s gaze was drawn to a glinting shape in the man’s hand.

A dagger, dripping with blood.

Thomas’s blood.

Callum’s heart pounded like a war drum in his ears.

The man sighed. “Move along. Unless you’d like to meet the same fate as your compani—”

Callum lunged forward, cutting off the man’s speech with a guttural cry, striking with the speed of a viper.

The man ducked. He whirled around as Callum charged again. He overreached with the arc of his knife, and Callum used the moment to surge upward with a punch. His fist took the assailant in the chin—

And the force knocked Callum back.

He stared. A blow like that would have laid out the toughest fighter, yet the man stood and smiled, rubbing his chin with a gloved hand.

“I’m going to have fun with you,” the stranger whispered. “I like a man with a bit of fight in him. It’s more fun to play with your prey, don’t you think?”

Callum didn’t see the blow coming, only felt the pain searing across his temple as he was thrown to the ground again. 

He lifted his head, vision blurring. He blinked it clear, took in his friend’s ashen face. The sight flooded Callum with rage.

Whoever said to never fight with anger fueling your fists was a fool. Thomas’s best fights had been powered by emotion. Callum wasn’t fighting for money now. Or for Brice. He was fighting for Thomas. Because Thomas was—

“Stay down, little man,” the attacker’s voice hissed.

Callum dragged himself to his feet. His body, corded with muscle from a lifetime of training, screamed for him to stop. Instead he stood, swaying.

“I dinnae believe I’m going to Heaven,” Callum said, raising his fists once more, drawing strength from the familiar ache that radiated through his arms. “But I cannae wait to bring you to Hell with me.”

Lunging forward again, Callum poured everything he had into a single strike. He swung, landing the punch more out of luck than skill, half blinded by blood and dirt.

The man merely flinched, then caught Callum easily by the throat. A grin curled over his face.

How could that be possible?

“My, my, you are a feisty one,” he hissed.

The man lashed out, and pain flared along Callum’s torso. He released Callum and stepped back, red-tinged silver shining in his fist.

Callum touched his side, and his fingers came away wet with blood. He watched as crimson spread across his shirt. He tried to take a step, only to crumple to the ground beside Thomas, whose head rested limp against his chest.

Callum had never feared death, but now as he looked into its eyes, terror seized him. 

“Many thanks for the entertainment,” the man said.

To Callum’s horror, he bent low, holding a vial to the spreading pool of Thomas’s blood. He was gathering it.

“If you’ll excuse me, there’s one last Pillar I must find.”

Pillar?

The unearthly amber eyes melted into darkness as his opponent backed away and turned, disappearing into the shadows once more. Softly hissed words echoed in the alley. Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh, Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh…

The words the man spoke were Gaelic, but Callum’s fading mind couldn’t make out their meaning. A dark, mist-like substance rose from the ground and curled around the man’s feet, nearly indistinguishable from the dim of night. Like a sudden fog had rolled in.

Callum sputtered a curse, lacking the strength to spit. He tried to lift himself, but with each breath, pain flared in his side like a web of fire.

“I’m sorry, Thomas,” he croaked. Tears fell freely down his face, mingling with blood and sweat. He pressed his forehead against his friend’s. Grief washed over him at the still-warm press of his skin.

Thomas was gone, and Callum would soon follow.

A shiver raked his body. His eyes drifted shut.

Take me already, he pleaded to the darkness.

And the darkness answered.

No, not the darkness—Thomas’s voice, a memory now, though it was solid as stone.

“Get up, scunner.”

The warmth of the words turned electric, spreading through Callum’s body like wildfire. His eyes shot open and he gasped, breathing in a shock of cold air still sharp with the smell of blood. His fingers found the dirk he’d dropped earlier.

Grief and agony and pain and rage lifted Callum onto his feet, thrumming in him as he charged after Thomas’s murderer, knife raised and eager for flesh. He grabbed blindly, finally grasping a handful of fabric—the man’s cloak. Turning, the man’s eyes widened, making two white rings of surprise in the dark. Callum’s hand grabbed the man’s neck and aimed his dirk at the pale slash of his throat.

Suddenly, they froze. Callum could not move. His hand remained around the man’s neck, the tip of the dirk pressed against his vein. Light flowed around them. It’s not time for sunrise, he thought. Dimly, he noticed markings along the man’s collarbone. Knots carved into his skin.

The man cried out—not in pain, but in anger—but then, the cry was stifled by a rush of silence, so thick Callum thought he might drown in it. His stomach turned violently as the ground seemed to drop out from under him, forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut. He was falling, flying, falling.

I must be dead in the alley. The man must have killed me. This must be death.

A bright glow burned against his lids. He closed his eyes tighter and welcomed whatever might follow, only hoping he’d find Thomas there. A wall of light had formed above, descending as if the sun were pulling him through the sky. His body rose into its searing embrace.

He waited for the long drop to the ground, but it never came.

Callum kept soaring.

Not just through the street.

Not to death’s embrace. 

But somewhere else.

Leaping to another world, like the man in Thomas’s story, Callum thought.

So he leaped. 

Destiny of Avalon (Awakenings Book 3) by J. Lynn Else Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young group of heroes faces their most challenging journey yet when their parents and a close ally are taken by a vengeful djinn who plans to unleash a powerful djinn army in author J. Lynn Else’s “Destiny of Avalon”, the third book in the Awakenings series. 

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The Synopsis

A djinn banished long ago has found his way back into Avalon, and he’s taken Genie’s, Whit’s, Mei’s, and Beth’s parents hostage. In exchange for their lives, he wants an ancient artifact. With it, he’ll conjure a spell that will destroy all of time as we know it in order to restore something that was taken from him centuries in the past. Then, before anyone knows what’s happening, he snatches Mei, whose ancestral ties can help him unlock his palace and its sinister secrets on Bottle Isle.

With the lives of their parents and Mei on the line, Beth, Whit, and Genie will need to split up in hopes of retrieving the artifact while also finding a way to set a trap for the evil djinn. Queens Guinevere and Nimue, along with Whit and Beth, will travel to the land of the dead on an ancient Egyptian solar barge. Meanwhile at the Library of Ancients, as Genie is investigating ways to foil the djinn’s plans, something strange begins to happen to her. She’s aging rapidly and losing strength with each passing day. While Morgana searches for a cure for Genie, Viviane must try to unlock the djinn’s final secret: his true name. If they can discover that, they can destroy his power.

However, there’s one final task that only Genie can complete. If they’re to stand a chance against the djinn army to free their parents and Mei from captivity, Genie must find a way to awaken the land of Avalon.

The Review

This was such a thrilling and heart-pounding conclusion to a multi-mythological baring fantasy series! The deep-seated lore the author has crafted from both original storytelling and existing mythos from various cultures was incredible to see. The addition of Egyptian mythology in particular in this story, from the Egyptian afterlife to gods and goddesses, was so creatively inspiring, especially considering the overall Arthurian mythos that has defined this narrative for so long.

The emotional and captivating journey this main cast of characters goes through is so investing to behold as a reader and fan of this series. Mei and Genie in particular have truly powerful stories unfold, both enduring the most challenging aspects of this magical adventure yet as they both attack the new threat from two very different places. The expansion of this world and the connection that it has to Earth’s own mythology and connection to magic was perfectly brought to life by these characters and made for a truly entertaining read.

The Verdict

Engaging, captivating, and brilliantly written, author J. Lynn Else’s “Destiny of Avalon” is the brilliant final chapter of the Awakenings series. While the world-building and mythos the author introduces leave plenty of room for the author to revisit in future stories, the main tale and its conclusion felt so satisfying and did the characters justice in the end. The climactic final battle with this ancient evil and the emotional final chapter that shows the path these four friends end up taking made this such a beautiful story to behold and captured the magic that defined the narrative for so long. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J. LYNN ELSE is an award-winning author from Minnesota who’s self-published two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt, “The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen (2013),” which was named an Indie Editor’s Choice book for 2016 by the Historical Novel Society, and “The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic (2016)” as well as a sci fi novella “Strangely Constructed Souls (2018).” Through Inklings Publishing, she’s authored an Arthurian-influenced, female-driven fantasy trilogy, “Descendants of Avalon” (2018), “Lost Daughters of Avalon” (2019), and “Prophecy of Avalon” (2021).” Her short story “The Girl from the Haunted Woods,” won 2nd place in the “Journey into the Fantastical” Anthology contest. In 2021, she became the Indie Reviews Editor for the Historical Novel Society. She believes in unicorns and practicing random acts of awesome.

https://www.teasippinnerdymom.com/

Lost Daughters of Avalon (Awakenings Book 2) by J. Lynn Else Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Four young women return to the magical land they helped save months earlier, finding it in total chaos as the fate of the lands rests in discovering their ancient lineage in author J. Lynn Else’s “Lost Daughters of Avalon”, the second book in the Awakenings series.

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The Synopsis

After not hearing anything from their knights in Avalon for weeks, the horrible Questing Beast breaks through into the world and attacks Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit. Their magic stirs to stop the monster, but Beth’s attempts fail. Help from Avalon arrives just in time to remove the curse and reveal a woman inside the beast who claims to be Genie’s biological mother.

The four friends learn their knights had gone missing, along with one of Avalon’s queens, Viviane. An ancient evil runs amok in Avalon and the people blame the four friends, claiming they released Merlin to destroy their world. To clear their name and rescue their knights, the four friends must once again risk the dangers of Avalon.

Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit must pull together and learn to combine their powers of air, water, earth, and fire to rebalance the world they might have thrown into chaos. If they fail, the worlds of Avalon and Earth could destabilize and end life as they know it.

The Review

This was a powerful and captivating read. The author did such an incredible job of finding new and creative ways of weaving classic Arthurian legends and mythology into the unique world of Avalon and finding a brilliant twist in how these four young women fit into the fantasy world so unlike their own. The balance of the iconic legends they know and love with the YA/children’s style storytelling devices made this story so engaging to read, and both the action and otherworldly settings really crafted some brilliant imagery in the reader’s mind.

The twists and turns this narrative took really elevated the cast of characters in this read. Getting to understand the women of the Arthurian legends and see them in a new light made this so memorable, and how it reflected the four young heroes who were learning about this world was so perfect to read and watch unfold on the pages. The theme of identity and lineage played such an important role here in this narrative, and readers are going to absolutely be shocked and in awe of the answers that come from this journey the women find themselves on.

The Verdict

Haunting, entertaining, and emotionally gripping, author J. Lynn Else’s “Lost Daughters of Avalon” is the perfect YA/Children’s mythology and fantasy read and the perfect second novel in a growing fantasy series. The heartbreaking revelations and shocking moments as the final moments play out in this read will have readers hanging on the author’s every word, and the need to read more of this captivating narrative will be so strong in the reader’s heart. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J. LYNN ELSE is an award-winning author from Minnesota who’s self-published two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt, “The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen (2013),” which was named an Indie Editor’s Choice book for 2016 by the Historical Novel Society, and “The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic (2016)” as well as a sci fi novella “Strangely Constructed Souls (2018).” Through Inklings Publishing, she’s authored an Arthurian-influenced, female-driven fantasy trilogy, “Descendants of Avalon” (2018), “Lost Daughters of Avalon” (2019), and “Destiny of Avalon” (2021).” Her short story “The Girl from the Haunted Woods,” won 2nd place in the “Journey into the Fantastical” Anthology contest. In 2021, she became the Indie Reviews Editor for the Historical Novel Society. She believes in unicorns and practicing random acts of awesome.

http://www.teasippinnerdymom.com/

Fly by Night by Tara O’Connor Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young girl must return to her old hometown after her twin sister goes missing, and while clues begin to point towards a supernatural entity being the culprit, a much more sinister threat looms in the shadows in author Tara O’Connor’s “Fly by Night”.

The Synopsis 

In this environmental-thriller graphic novel with a supernatural twist, Dee must find out what happened to her missing twin. An amazing mystery filled with strange creatures, high school drama, and family, this darkly illustrated book shows us that monsters are all around us.

There are monsters in the woods.

While out searching desperately for her missing sister, Dee discovers something isn’t quite right in the woods. She is soon in a battle to save the pinelands, and she is finding more questions than answers. 

As time goes on, the only thing Dee knows for sure is that there are monsters among us. But they aren’t who we should be afraid of…

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The Review

This was such a moving and entertaining read. Equal parts mythology and crime thriller, this graphic novel really did a great job of finding a natural balance between the supernatural elements of the story and the more emotional and heartbreaking realities of the disappearance of a loved one. As an avid fan and admirer of cryptozoology and cryptids overall, it was so interesting to see the author’s take on the Jersey Devil lore and to reshape it into showing the subtle nature of what “monsters” really are in this world.

The emotional character study that this graphic novel makes is so the core of the theme and narrative of this graphic novel. Dee’s struggles as she pursues answers to the disappearance of the twin sister she regrets not talking to more and delving into her struggles with her parent’s divorce, the environmental fight she takes on, and the grim reality of what happened to her sister overall, will immediately draw the reader in and what I think the author does so beautifully here is create a story that finds representation for so many different readers out there.

The Verdict

An original, engaging, and heartfelt read, author Tara O’Connor’s “Fly by Night” is a must-read graphic novel of 2021. The stark nature of the story’s narrative and the amazing artwork somehow drawing a fantastic contrast to the unknowable nature of the universe as a whole made this story shine brightly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Tara is a cartoonist currently residing in the New Jersey wilderness. When she’s not drawing comics, she’s teaching them. She drinks way too much tea and coffee, and on any given day there’s a 90% chance that every meal she had was cereal. 

http://www.taraocomics.com/

To Sleep With Stones (A Hollystone Mystery 2) by W.L. Hawkins Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The discovery of a powerful Egyptian artifact lands a man in prison for murder, and his only hope rests in the Wicca Priest he has befriended, Estrada, who must solve the crime before it’s too late in author W.L. Hawkins’s novel, “To Sleep With Stones”, the second book in the Hollystone Mystery series.

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The Synopsis

“Estrada scrutinized the tats, wondering how far the ink extended beneath the worn leather kilt, and just how painful it would be to have your genitals tattooed. He knew about ink—wore the black lacy wings of an angel on his back. Her feathers extended across his shoulders and down his glutes. That ink had broken more than his skin. “

When a renegade archaeologist discovers an ancient Egyptian

artifact in Scotland, Dylan McBride’s world implodes. Imprisoned for murder, he summons his friend, the Wicca Priest, Estrada, to solve the crime and set him free. Unable to turn down Dylan’s cry for help, Estrada abandons his melancholy lover in Canada where he gets targeted by a vicious vampire.

Estrada faces his inner demons. After playing vampire for years, Michael Stryker confronts a real vampire in a life-changing showdown. And, sweet, virginal, Dylan McBride, faces his greatest fears in one of Scotland’s most terrifying prisons. Who will survive?

A fast-paced murder mystery spiked with edgy urban fantasy, that opens portals into the realm of witches, faeries, and vampires.

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The Review

I absolutely and truly love this series! It speaks to me on so many levels, from my fascination and interest in Wicca and my passion for mythology and history to the chilling fantasy and murder-mystery elements of the narrative. The suspense and corruption within the police department that Estrada faces early on in the narrative adds a human threat element into the more magical and historical nature of the narrative, keeping the story balanced between grounded realism and magical and historical fiction.

The characters were so enjoyable to watch grow and develop on the page. The whole narrative plays out like an HBO show waiting to be developed, combining elements of LGBTQ+ and adult storytelling into a complex character study of those who seek the answers hidden within the most complex systems of our universe, from historians and archeologists to Wiccans and Pagans. Estrada is a complex character, and readers won’t be able to help getting invested in his story as he balances his desire to protect and help his friends and the innocent with his personal romance and personality developments. 

The Verdict

A memorable, fantastic, and action-fueled fantasy murder mystery, author W.L. Hawkins’s “To Sleep with Stones” is the perfect second book in the Hollystone Mystery series. The story’s inclusion of everything from faeries and corrupt cops to magick practitioners and the gods themselves, the brilliant mythos that the author incorporates into the narrative, and the cliffhanger ending with particular characters will have readers eager to learn more and get into the rest of this amazing series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

W. L. Hawkin writes myth, magic, and mayhem designed to inspire and entertain. Described as “intoxicating, lush, magically-edgy, page-turners,” her Hollystone Mysteries series features a coven of witches who solve murders using their wits and ritual magic with a little help from the gods. Wendy is also a published blogger, book reviewer, Indie publisher, and poet, with a background in Indigenous Studies and English literature. She loves myth and magic, so when she’s not writing, she’s studying Druidry, shamanism, and mediumship. Although she is an introvert, in each book, her characters go on a journey where she has traveled herself.

She defies genre by writing character-driven fast-paced mysteries and thrillers that involve fantastical characters. See her four book series: To Charm a Killer, To Sleep with Stones, To Render a Raven, and To Kill a King.