Tag Archive | angels

Damsels of Distress

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16 authors. 1 anthology. Just $1.

Forget helpless princesses and ingenues with stars in their eyes.

CHBB Publishing and Vamptasy Publishing, the leader in small press fiction, brings you an anthology that is all about the strong women who bring the world to its knees.

Rulers, villains, heroes: women of all walks of life bringing or fighting horrors unimaginable.

Compiled and edited by award-winning and bestselling author Lily Luchesi.

Join the authors

on October 28th
for a release event featuring exclusive content and giveaways!

Lady with red dragon armor in palace, fire fantasy

 

Damsels of Distress

Featuring:

Clipped Wings

Clipped Wings
Kathy-Lynn Cross

Tainted

Tainted
Deliaria Davis

Muddying the Water.png

Muddying the Water
Sara Dobie Bauer

Queen of Corpses

Queen of Corpses
A. Giacomi

Black Vials

Black Vials
Sam Gregory

Angel's Blood

Angel’s Blood
Mirren Hogan

Death at the King's Court

Death at the King’s Court
Lily Luchesi

Succubus

Succubus
Xtina Marie

Socket

Socket
P. Mattern

The Hunter's Curse

The Hunter’s Curse
S.L. Perrine

The Saint

The Saint
Tianna Scott

Nadia The Beginning

Nadia: The Beginning
T.L. Travis

War in the Woods

War in the Woods
E.M. Whittaker

harmonys-rhapsody

Harmony’s Rhapsody
Jay Michael Wright II

Reign of Evil

Reign of Evil
Simone Young

Invisible Sun

Invisible Sun
S.J. Davis

 

My Review:

13 short stories, 2 poems, and a novella.
I enjoyed all the stories in this book and have definitely discovered some ‘new to me’ authors, who I’ll be searching out for further reading.

From angels and demons, through shifters and vampires, to witches and zombies, and more! This anthology has them all.

There wasn’t a single tale that didn’t capture my attention and imagination. The stories were all interesting, well written and complete, though some of them left me wanting more…!

Black Vials by Sam Gregory was one of those stories. That one had a ‘To be continued…’ at the end, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for that.

I’d also like to read more about Lola from Angel’s Blood by Mirren Hogan, and I need to know what happens next with Jane from Reign of Evil by Simone Young.

All in all a great book by some great authors.

**I received an ARC of Damsels of Distress for an early review, and have since bought a copy!

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Toi’s Top 5 Angel Books Blitz

Kindle sale + Paperback Giveaway.

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In celebration of author, Toi Thomas’ birthday, on October 21st, all her ebooks are on sale $0 – $1.99 from October 20th – October 24th.

All these books are also available in print and come with reasonable shipping through Createspace.com, if you don’t have Amazon Prime.

Check them out below and then stick around for Toi’s Top 5 Angel Books and giveaway.

 

Books by Toi Thomas:

Legend-Window-front2small

 

Legend of the Boy, In the Window, and Other short stories

A collection of multi-genre stories including science fiction, romance, and paranormal. The first title story is that of a boy who must destroy the world so he can save humanity.

 

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It’s Like the Full Moon

A romantic comedy and the first in a series. The mild-mannered Rebecca gets caught up in a most unlikely love-triangle and her BFF Lisa isn’t much help.

 

 

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Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel

Giovanni’s a creature out of time. Mira’s a doctor trying to classify him. Beauty and the Beast meet Jekyll and Hyde in this paranormal romance with biblical influences. *40 Days and Nights of Eternal Curse- a nonfiction companion guide to the novel.

 

 
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Eternal Curse: Battleground

A family saga that touches the past and future. Giovanni’s story will bring you to tears as loss and duty blur the lines of hope for what is to come. *Battleground Survival 101- a nonfiction companion guide to the novel.

 

 

ChipSkipsmallJoeNeedssmallChip and Skip Need Each Other & What Does Joe Need

These two simple, yet vibrant, stories teach young children, and those with special needs, the difference and importance of needs and wants, at home, school, and overall. Sold separately.

 

PlantAnimalsmallLandChangesmallPlants and Animals Change Over Time & Land Changes Over Time

These two simple, yet vibrant, stories teach young children, and those with special needs, the importance and inevitability of change in living things and the world. Sold separately.

 

 
Hi there; I’m Toi.
If you aren’t familiar with me yet, don’t worry; this is your chance to learn that I love Batman, Betty Boop, Star Wars, and Angels. I like all kinds of angels. Good ones, bad ones, and creatures with wings that look like angels but may not actually be. I don’t think it’s just a matter of wings either.

There are other winged creatures I like, such as dragons, but there are also some I don’t like such as flying monkeys or seagulls. LOL! But seriously, I’ve grown a fondness for angel lore and stories about and or containing angel-like creatures. Heck, I even write about them in my Eternal Curse Series.

While my books are influenced by Bible tales, a great many angel stories are not. Either way, if it’s about angels, I’m probably going to like it. So, here’s a list of the Top 5 angel books (or books with an angel or angel-like character) I’ve read in at least the last ten years, and in no particular order.

 

Angelfall

Angelfall

TheConduitDevilsDaughter

 

The Conduit

An older edition cover, same awesome story.

 

The Devil’s Daughter

 

 

MercuryFallsSecretInWings

 

 

Mercury Falls

 

Secret in the Wings

 

 

 

If you like angels or supernatural and urban fantasy stories, you should enter my paperback giveaway (open to US only) of the books mentioned above. I’ve enjoyed them and hope you will too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for celebrating my birthday with me… And remember, book reviews are every author’s life force. 🙂

Books I Read in May ’17

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Playing with Fire

by Clare Meyers & Cris Meyers

51qE0iSS3OL._SY346_An interesting beginning to a new series.

Magic, shapeshifting and crime all blend together to make this enjoyable read by husband and wife team, Cris and Clare Meyers.

Talented thief, Renee and her partner, Stone, join a trio of shapeshifters, Rook, Carlos and Grace, to steal a magical gem, and take revenge against the man who set them up on a previous job.
But in their line of work, nothing is quite what it seems.

Although the book is much more about the planning and the action, I did enjoy getting acquainted with the characters and hope to get to know them better in the next book of the series.

 

Loner Renee Devereaux is a thief with a lot to hide, and trust is a risk she rarely takes. Stone Anders is a mercenary and hitman, but being a hired killer isn’t fitting like it used to. But while they are criminals, they are anything but common. Renee and Stone are Talents, and their supernatural powers give them an edge in a high stakes business where one wrong move could be their last.

It’s always just one job, and everyone scatters—sometimes in less than favorable circumstances. For Renee and Stone, that’s business as usual. But things change.

A chance at revenge draws Renee and Stone into a job they know they shouldn’t take. The job: Steal a dangerous magical artifact before it can be used. Along with the deadline, they’ll have to deal with a loudmouth hacker with problematic connections, a rookie who still believes in ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ and a professional liar with a cat’s curiosity.

Worse, something just doesn’t feel right.

But this is their job. They have a reputation to maintain, a paycheck to earn, and a score to settle…

***

 

Fly by Night

by Clare Meyers & Cris Meyers

31925656The ‘gang’ from book 1, Playing with Fire, are back. They’ve moved on from the events in Seattle, but they haven’t forgotten, or forgiven.

This, the second book in the series is told from Rooks point of view and is a superb sequel.
Rook never knows when to keep his mouth shut and his thoughts to himself, which makes for some great moments. Half the time I wanted to gag him, the rest of the time I wanted to hug him!

The characters all evolve and grow in their own ways, during the story, and we learn more about them, their past and their relationships.

The plot is well thought out, and this book has more action and suspense than the previous one.

I enjoyed Playing with Fire… I loved Fly by Night!

 

The game has changed.

Rook is a wisecracking hacker, a shapeshifter who prefers the name ‘were-crow,’ and former underling to a Talented crime boss. But as supernatural powers go, he’s no heavy hitter.

After a job blew up in his face, Rook thought the worst thing he’d have to deal with was criminal unemployment. But when he starts losing his mind to mysterious voices, being broke takes a backseat. And once his apartment goes up in smoke, Rook knows he’s in trouble.

Out of his depth and trying to dig his way out of a hole not entirely of his own making, Rook must put his survival—and his sanity—in the hands of people who have their own mysterious reasons for helping him.

With trust in short supply and time ticking down, Rook will need to find a way to make this uneasy alliance work before even more of his life goes up in flames.

Book 2 of the Criminal Elements urban fantasy series

And don’t miss out on Playing with Fire (Book 1)

***

 

Code Wolf

by C.D. Gorri

34747449 I really enjoyed this new book from C.D. Gorri.

As with her previous books, it’s set in ‘Grazi Kelly’s world’. This one, however, is definitely not YA!

I loved learning more about Randall, and his unexpected love interest, Tulla, along with Tulla’s special son, Danny.
The book is well-written, easy to read and hard to put down. The descriptive writing allows you to join the fleshed out characters on their adventures.

 

“He never thought of himself as a family man, but sometimes things changed… ”

Randall Graves spends most of his time writing lines of code in his air-conditioned office at Macconwood Manor. He’d rather be alone than risk involvement of any kind. Everything was going fine, until his Alpha sends him on a forced vacation.

It’s all good with Randall, as long as there’s WIFI at the small, beachfront, bed and breakfast in Bloody Point, South Carolina. He could work and get some sun at the same time, but he wasn’t counting on Tulla Nirvelli. The beautiful single mother owned and operated the small B &B with her seven-year old son.

Charmed by the small island and the young family, Randall finds himself enjoying his time at the Sea Mist Bed & Breakfast. When trouble starts brewing for Tulla and her son, Randall is ready to jump in, but that means revealing his secret. Will she accept the truth about him?

***

 

The Name of Death

by Joshua Robertson

33636392 I enjoyed this short story from Joshua Robertson.

It was a well-written and entertaining read.
The characters were fairly well fleshed out for such a short tale.

A good introduction to the authors writing and to the world in his novels, which I look forward to reading.

 

Drada Koehn is a fearless, formidable fighter ensnared in a presaged war against the northern humans. When the Speaker foretells their victory upon discovery of the name of death, she sets out to unravel the mysterious prophecy. Now, bound by duty and honor, Drada faces untold horrors with her companions, searching for what may never be found. In a story of unexpected twists, she soon finds that her resolve to see the quest done will be the fortune or doom of her people.

***

 

Dark Legends

32721381 I enjoyed quite a few of the books in this set and will be looking to read other books by some of the authors.

If you like stories with Dragons, Ghosts, Mermaids, Shifters, Vampires, Witches… and much more, you’re bound to find a story in here that you enjoy.

Some of the stories worked well as standalone reads, while others were obviously part of a series.

As a bunch of the books were steamy (one or two more steam than story) this is definitely an adult only box set.

All in all, this collection of books was good value and a great way to find ‘new-to-me’ authors.

 

This Collection is packed with more than 20 full-length Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance reads from New York Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling Authors!

Don’t miss this collection of more than twenty unique twists in paranormal romance and urban fantasy, providing over one million words of supernatural suspense that will transport you to new worlds with smoking hot action and heart-throttling adventure!

The DARK LEGENDS boxed set includes: Mermaids, Sirens, Shifters, Vampires, Dragons, Sorcerers, Warriors, Angels, Faeries, Demons, Witches, Psychics, Ghosts, Mythology, Folk Tales, Legends, Dark Magic, Time Travel, and More!

***

 

Gloria and the Unicorn

by Wanda Luthman

34797852 A lovely children’s book with a wonderful message.

The book encourages its readers to be happy and to love themselves.

Gloria looks different from other children, but thanks to Sir Louie, a magical unicorn, she learns to accept that it’s ok to be different.The plot is well thought out, and this book has more action and suspense than the previous one.

 

Adopted by a loving owner of a children’s home, Gloria still has a lot to overcome. She has a droopy cheek on one side of her face. Then, she overhears a terrible secret about her past that she doesn’t want anyone to know. To protect her from bullies, she is kept out of school. But, Gloria wants to learn to read more than anything in the world. She feels she has no one to turn to until a magical unicorn named Sir Louie befriends her. Can he help her learn to love and accept herself? And when Sir Louie suddenly disappears, will Gloria think he has rejected her like everyone else or realize his life is in danger and he may need her help?

***

 

Claiming My Valentine

A Collection of 14 Paranormal Romances

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Enter the hot sexy world of New York Times, USA Today, And Award Winning Bestselling Authors!

 
cmv-ebook-cvrTami Lund, Julia Mills, C.D. Gorri, P.T. Macias, P. Mattern, Crystal Dawn, A.R. Von, Savannah Morgan, Audra Hart, Ariel Marie, Josette Reuel, Amanda Kimberley, Heather Kirchhoff, Daniella Whitehorse

Do you like steamy tales of passion, desire, seduction, and love? Step into a steamy romance with Claiming My Valentine, a collection of 14 sexy paranormal stories guaranteed to make your heart pound and your Kindle melt this Valentine’s Day . . . .

Explore your deepest desires and hidden fantasies as they come to life in these tempting tales of love! Claiming My Mate features Shifters, Dragons, Werewolves, Bears, Vampires, Fae, Ghosts, Angels, and more!

*All Proceeds go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital

 

Amazon : Barnes & Noble : iBooks : Kobo : Smashwords

Add to Goodreads

❤️

 
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The Dragon’s Valentine
by C.D. Gorri
Website : Newsletter : Facebook : Twitter

❤️

Broken Light, Lightbearer Prequel Part 2
by Tami Lund
Website : Facebook : Twitter

❤️

 

claiming-my-angel-1-pt-macias
Claiming My Angel
by P.T. Macias
Website : Facebook : Twitter

❤️

Searching for His Mate
by Ariel Marie
Website : Facebook : Twitter

❤️

 

stmvbs-p-mattern

Sex Slave to My Vampire Billionaire Stepbrothers: An MC Valentine Romance
by P. Mattern
Facebook

❤️

Blazing Desire
by Crystal Dawn
Website : Facebook

❤️

 

heart-of-ink-ar-von
Heart of Ink
by A.R. Von
Website : Facebook : Twitter

❤️

 

hfadh-1-savannah-morgan
Hearts, Flowers, & A Dead Husband
by Savannah Morgan
Website : Newsletter : Facebook : Twitter

❤️

Darkheart’s Valentine
by Audra Hart
Facebook

❤️

 

love-burns-1-josette-revel

Love Burns
by Josette Reuel
Website : Newsletter : Facebook : Twitter

❤️

Forever Yours
by Heather Kirchhoff
Facebook

❤️

 

forever-cherished-amanda-kimberly
Forever Cherished
by Amanda Kimberley
Website : Newsletter : Blog : Facebook

❤️

Claiming Cupid
by Julia Mills
Website : Facebook : Twitter

❤️

 

a-faes-mate-daniella-whitehorse
A Fae’s Mate
by Daniella Whitehorse
Facebook

❤️

 

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Books I Read In April 2016

The Exiled (The Exiled, #1)

by Scott Borgman

Never a dull moment in this book! There’s always something happening.
Once you start reading, it’s virtually impossible to put down.

The book is beautifully written. The storyline, the conflict between good and evil, is well thought out and has a sense of uncertainty and tension.

All the characters, both the good and the evil, are complex and alive. They each have their own individual personality.

An incredible story with a stunning ending. I can’t wait to read book 2.

 

 

David doesn’t believe in angels. He doesn’t believe in the devil. What better place for the key to Lucifer’s prison to hide than in someone who doesn’t believe in any of that?

When Lucifer discovers where the key to his prison is located, he sets out to claim it. The only thing standing in his way: the Exiled. For ages, they’ve fought to keep Lucifer and those who stand beside him contained within the prison. It’s a war between angels and fallen angels. Between Exiled and Imprisoned. Between brothers and sisters. And the Exiled are losing.

By a stroke of luck (or is it Fate?), Celeste and David cross paths, and the ongoing struggle to contain Lucifer takes a new turn as David discovers the world he has always known is not what it seems, that angels don’t wear halos, and his lack of belief doesn’t matter. Lucifer wants the key to his prison – and he’ll stop at nothing to get it.

Celeste may be Exiled, but she’s still an angel… still sworn to protect humanity – and that includes David. Protecting him from her Imprisoned brothers and sisters isn’t her only problem, though. She’s attracted to David like a moth to a flame, but angel Law strictly forbids any kind of intimate relationships with humans. Not even a single kiss is allowed. She knows why it’s forbidden, but that’s just a rumor…

‘The Exiled’ is the first book in a trilogy of Paranormal Romance novels and is intended for mature audiences.

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Continuation (The Exiled, #2)

by Scott Borgman

Book 2 picks up some years after the end of book 1, with David and Celeste’s daughter, Kaly, learning about her heritage the hard way.
God, Lucifer and the old gods are all back along with the addition of vampires and werewolves.
The combination of the different myths and beliefs was handled brilliantly and well explained.

Once again the story grabbed me on page one and didn’t let go until the end of book three!

In my review of book one, I said “All the characters, both the good and the evil, are complex and alive. They each have their own individual personality.”
This is still true in book two, and the new characters, especially Kaly and Cody developed and grew through the book.

This was an exceptional read, and I couldn’t help but dig straight into book three

 

They thought it was over. They thought they had won. But you can’t keep a determined devil down, and Lucifer’s got something new up his demonic-looking armor. He’s devious and calculating. He knows the rules – and this time, he’s going to use them in his favor.

As the story speeds ahead through the years, Lucifer’s plans begin to unfold. With the help of a shadowy ally, he manipulates the rules on a fateful night – the very night David and Celeste sit down to tell their daughter who she really is.

For 23 years, Kaly thought she was just a normal human being like everyone else. But when she becomes the target in Lucifer’s newest attempt to escape his prison, the veil is lifted once more as she learns through frightful experience that her parents have secrets – and she’s one of them.

They’re out there… dark creatures of myth and legend that have been portrayed in movies and written about in books. But the monsters are real. They’re coming for her. And this time, the angels are powerless to help. Lucifer’s plan is flawless. His freedom from the prison is assured. No human will keep him from escaping this time.

It’s going to take more than bullets to keep Lucifer contained… more than human determination, unexpected love, angelic defiance, or help from an old acquaintance with her own agenda. It’s going to take something this world has never seen before.

‘The Exiled: Continuation’ is the second book in a trilogy of Paranormal Romance novels and is intended for mature audiences.

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Infinity (The Exiled, #3)

by Scott Borgman

In book three we see a more ‘human’ side to Lucifer, as former enemies join forces to defeat their common enemy.
This book is set five years later than book two, but for me it was as though I’d never left and I was immediately captured by the story.

There aren’t many books that make me cry, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed few tears during the ending of this story.

The trilogy as a whole is a roller coaster ride of emotions, as good battles evil and not everything is as black and white as it seems.
The three books were well written and rather than simply reading a story, you are drawn in and experience the action alongside the characters.
Although God and Lucifer, and heaven and hell, appear in these novels, they aren’t ‘religious’ books and aren’t at all preachy.

 

Scott Borgman is an amazing storyteller and the The Exiled Trilogy is an awesome read!

 

The angels have waited, knowing something is coming on the horizon. Something dark. But they don’t know what. They don’t know when. They only know it’s coming. For five years, Kaly and Cody have waited as well. And in those five years, neither has aged a day. Such was the gift that was given to them.

He’s plotted, planned, and studied each of his foes for ages. He knows their weaknesses. When he unleashes his fury upon them all, no one is prepared. Humans, angels, old gods… no one is safe. Chaos ensues and the death toll begins to rise.

As the angels fight to defend Heaven and the old gods battle for Olympus, Kaly makes a dangerous decision and ventures into Lucifer’s prison, while Cody travels to Olympus in a desperate hope to find a way to stop an unstoppable foe. And while they seek answers – humanity faces the Apocalypse on Earth.

The veil will be torn away. Enemies will become allies to fight a common foe. You’ll walk with uncle and niece into the darkest depths of humanity to discover how low we can sink… and how high we’re capable of soaring. You’ll fly with angels, stand with the old gods, and fight beside humanity in its most desperate hour.

The game draws to a close. Humans, angels, and olds gods face a foe that has planned everything so meticulously, there can only be one outcome: a stunning conclusion to The Exiled Trilogy that will last for Infinity.

‘The Exiled: Infinity’ is the third book in a trilogy of Paranormal Romance novels and is intended for mature audiences.

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Hellbounce (The ARC Chronicles, #1)

by Matthew W. Harrill

An amazing story!

Join the ‘forgettable’ Madden and psychotherapist Eva Ross, helped along the way by Janus and the ARC, as they race against time to save mankind and stop the Apocalypse.

This well-paced and action-packed book grabs your attention and holds it to the last page and beyond. It’s a great story with a well thought out plot. The graphically detailed descriptions don’t just let you visualise the scene, they draw you in and make you a part of it. I loved being a part of this adventure.
The interesting and dimensional characters were strong, believable and easy to love… or hate.

I am very interested to see where the story takes me in the second book, Hellborne (less)

 

As a psychologist in a prison hospital, Eva Ross had always dealt with her share of sinners. The corrupt, the insane, their minds were all hers to unlock. But when those around her, those she trusted with her life start to exhibit the same characteristics, she is forced to turn to a stranger, a man whose name she is incapable of even remembering, for sanctuary.

Follow Eva as she crosses continents to unlock the answers, and her eventual destiny.

Hellbounce. Demons don’t always hide in the dark.

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Hellborne (The ARC Chronicles, #2)

by Matthew W. Harrill

Picking up where Hellbounce left off, the author delivers another amazing book in the trilogy.

As Madden and Eva marry and prepare for impending parenthood, all hell breaks loose…
this time, the demons are after the baby, and they’re not the only ones!

It’s hard to review Hellborne without revealing anything of the story, there is so much packed into the book. The characters are well fleshed out, and the vivid descriptions, once again, drew me in and kept a tight hold of me, right up to the end, and what an ending!

I need to read Hellbeast, NOW!

 

Heavily pregnant, Eva Scott finds herself challenged from all sides. Her husband Madden is not the man he was. Her mind is overburdened with the dreadful visions witnessed mere months before. Her new-found allies the ARC Council are prepared to turn against her unless she meets their demands. Above all, Eva feels she is being led on a path by a powerful, faceless forces, almost within touching distance, always in the shadows.
Join Eva as she battles against time to uncover the answers and seeks to find a safe haven to deliver her baby.

HELLBORNE: FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCT

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The Dead Game

by Susanne Leist

Take a small coastal town, throw in some humans, human vampires, good vampires and evil vampires, mix them up so you’re not sure who’s who. Add some dark shadows, deadly creatures and an old, creepy haunted house, with steps and doors that appear and disappear.
Combine it all with murder, mystery, intrigue and a dash of romance… and you have The Dead Game

The vivid descriptions in this fast-paced, action-packed book, stick you right in the centre of the action alongside Linda, Todd and their friends. There are plenty of surprise along the way. Just as you think you have it figured out and all is well, the author throws in another twist.

The main characters, are for the most part, well-fleshed out, but disappointingly, some of the dialogue was stilted and unnatural.

 

The Dead Game takes place in a coastal town with sparkling blue waters. But are its waters truly harmless? Or is evil lurking beneath its soothing waves, ready to ensnare unsuspecting victims into its dark and murky depths?
Life changes in the remote town…as darkness falls on the picturesque streets, the ominous sounds of chanting linger on the whispering winds. It all begins with the mysterious invitation to a party at End House. It is not at all what they had expected. They find themselves trapped in a deserted house where they must flee for their lives through revolving rooms and a trick basement. Not knowing if their stalkers are shape-shifters or human, they must uncover the one controlling the game and everyone else in town.

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The Guicai Talisman

by A.M. Griffin

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but most of us do, and I did with this book.
The cover of The Guicai Talisman reminds me of a comic book, which it certainly isn’t and I’m glad I read it!

I enjoyed visiting the world created within its pages. A vividly described world inhabited by many paranormal creatures including witches, vampires and demons.
Babylonia (Baby) Delilah Jones works as a private investigator in the Undercity. She is determined to prove herself despite (or maybe because of) her half-human, half-paranormal status.
Baby is well developed, as is the cast of supporting characters.

I received an eCopy of The Guicai Talisman from Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

 

 

What does a woman have to do to prove she belongs in the Undercity? Sure, I’m unclassed and only half paranormal, but that doesn’t mean I can’t solve cases. Since the established PI’s won’t acknowledge my right to a territory, I’m taking jobs from whoever will hire me, doing what I do best…proving myself to be a bad-ass problem solver. Which is how I find myself breaking into Zaid’s house, looking for a talisman my witch client says the very powerful vampire stole.

Now, I can make flowers grow, hear the wind’s whispers and talk to animals, but I don’t have the gift of seeing the future. If I did, I’d have known not to take this case. Because no matter the outcome, nothing good can come from messing with the Guicai Talisman, or it’s far too gorgeous guardian.

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Annalise’s Up and Down Day

by Denise L. Jenne

A wonderful little book for younger children, that takes them through the ups and downs of a day in Annalise’s life.

I could easily imagine a series of books exploring different ‘opposites’.
The writing was easy enough for young readers and the story short enough to keep them engaged.
(My grandson, aged 6, had no problem reading it)

The pictures didn’t really appeal to me (or him), though!

I received an ecopy of Annalise’s Up and Down Day from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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This is the story of one day in the life of three-year-old Annalise. It follows her, through her daily activities, adventures and misadventures on one summer day, as she explores the meaning of “up” and “down” in her world.

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After Dad: Novel

by Ralph Cohen

A peculiar, but strangely compelling book, made up of a series of interlinked short stories.

The stories take us through the lives of four family members – a wife, two daughters and a son -following the death of their father ( & husband).

Margot and Jenny’s stories are written in the first person, as is the wife’s. Oddly though, Toby’s story is written in the third person. The chapter about the funeral director, also written in the third person, seemed out of place.

The children all have emotional and moving stories in the years following their father’s death, which at times made uncomfortable reading.

Although I felt involved with the girls stories, I didn’t have the same connection with Ruth or Toby!

 

“He was always there for me,” Jenny Kovacek says in the opening of the novel After Dad, and indeed, her father is such a charismatic force in the family that despite his untimely passing, he continues to have a dynamic impact on his survivors. Set mostly in Southern California during the tumultuous 1960s, Ralph Cohen’s debut novel tells the stories of the man’s three children and widow as they cope with their loss. Though missing, the father is never far from their minds, and during critical moments in their lives, he seems to reach out in various ways, from simple memories of touch and voice to artifacts left behind to a sense of his ongoing existence. How each of the family members responds to his lingering presence leads to results that are by turn comic, tragic and transformative. Two of the book’s chapters appeared previously in literary magazines, The Connecticut Review and REAL.

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Bed of Thornes

by Angel L. Woodz

 

Veronica Thorne is nearing her 30th birthday. An established painter who is quite comfortable financially, owning an art gallery in Dallas, TX. She has never questioned who she is and what she wants in life, until now. Veronica has an addiction, one that she is losing all control of.

Adrian, younger and open-minded, becomes a part of her mysterious world of secrets. Each of them swirling in unknown desire-filled paths, not knowing where their lives will lead from this. One afraid, the other wanting to embrace the beauty of what they consider darkness.

Cohen, Ralph

Books I read in November


Cemetery at Devil’s Bend

by Gina Moray

A well-written and spooky short story that grabs hold of you at the start and drags you along to the end.
Plenty of suspense and twists to keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat, right up to the surprising conclusion.
I was, very quickly, just as curious as Marty, to find out about the creepy cemetery.

 

Something strange is happening to Pine Creek. A cemetery pops up just outside of town and it’s fueling the residents’ fears. The headstones bare the names of residents interred in town and the townsfolk are left wondering … what’s buried beneath the soil. Marty Duller, a historian with a passion for cemeteries, starts to ask questions and learns that all is not what it seems in Pine Creek. There are more than bodies buried in the town’s history and their very souls may be at risk.

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Ascension Within: A Story of Angels & Fallen-Angels

by Julie Nicholls

Wow! A fantastic conclusion to what has been a fantastic series.

For the final time, I joined Eloise, Kai, and all their friends in their adventures as they endeavoured to win the game and save all of humanity.
I am going to miss them all!

I don’t know what to say about this book, that I haven’t said about the previous two.
The steamy scenes, violent fights, surprises, intrigue, and adventure that I loved, in the first two books, are all back in this book, along with more sadness, joy, secrets, rage and excitement.

If you haven’t read Demon Within and Angel Within, then you need to read them before you read this one.

Thanks again to Julie Nicholls who gifted me an eCopy of the book. 

The story continues from book two, Angel Within, where we left Eloise in a state of unrest at Kai’s disappearance. Can Eloise save Kai? If she does, is he going to be the same man she fell in love with? Or will he revert to his old persona? Confused by overwhelming emotions of despair and betrayal over losing her lover, Eloise finds inner strength and rages with determined purpose to aid her husband’s return.
Together with her comrades and the angel, Anael, she makes her plan to rescue Kai, but as always when dealing with angels, it is not so easy. The angels are cooking more plots and schemes; they just won’t leave the mortals alone! Anael reveals additional secrets regarding Eloise and Kai’s past, and she’s angry and hurt. Lashing out at the Angel, she condemns his actions and his interferences with the lives of mortals.
The battle is on to release Kai, and to save the souls of man from Nivel, a dark angel. He’s playing a dangerous game and the prize is all of humanity.
The witch Jana is aiding Nivel. What deceit is she planning this time after hiding her intentions in Angel Within? Nivel strives to win a game he and Anael started over 25 years ago, but who has the better team?
You will learn everything in the final book, Ascension Within, book three in the Fallen Angels Series.
Ascension Within has more secrets and plots, just as with Demon Within, and Angel Within. Together with sensual, erotic bedroom scenes, and an adventure that will keep you guessing, you will be riveted to know the conclusion of this saga.
The Fallen Angels series is a story of love, passion, good overpowering evil, and loyalty.
Includes an additional bonus short story
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The 11th Percent

by T.H. Morris

I enjoyed this exciting, fast-paced and original book. It brings a fresh and unique look at spirits and the afterlife.

The story is well-written, with lots of action and plenty of suspense. I was hooked from the first page.

Johan and the supporting cast were well-developed, had their own personalities, and were, for the most part, likeable. Even the unpleasant Trip, turned out not to be a villain, which I didn’t see coming!

Thanks to the descriptive and engaging writing, I felt as though I had joined Johan and his new friends in the challenging world of the 11th Percenters.

The book ended well, leaving room to continue the story, but without a cliffhanger.

Thank you to the author for gifting me an eCopy of the book.

Jonah Rowe, a bored accountant and aspiring novelist, is sick and tired of his job as an accountant. He is burnt out from all the office gossip, politics, and double talk, and he longs for his life to matter. Truth be told, Jonah wants anything besides the lame routine of coasting through his workday….only to psych himself up enough to do it all over again the next day. He only wishes that his life had some meaning.

Amidst the combination of writer’s block and society’s expectations to have a “real” 9-5 job, Jonah gets his wish.

His world is turned completely upside down one evening when his vision inexplicably turns blue for several moments. He then receives a warning from a spectral visitor that not only is he in danger, but everything in his life is about to change.

Overnight, Jonah transforms from an overworked, underpaid accountant to the centerpiece of a spectral battle. Will he rise to the occasion? Can he accept that everything he knows about life and death is completely wrong? And, most importantly, will he be able to comprehend and harness the power of the mysterious 11th Percent?

Follow Jonah’s journey in this new breed of ghost story!

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The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen

by R.T. Lowe

I really enjoyed reading this book. If you like your books short and sweet, this isn’t the book for you!
I have no problems reading a good long book as it gives me something to sink my teeth into.

The Prologue is long and at first I was unable to see the connection to the story, but it all made sense as events happen and the various plot lines meet along the way.

Q. What do you get if you mix monsters attacking and eating people in a forest, a serial killer who kills teenagers, a stalker, a band of assassins and a group of college kids?
A. A damn good story!!

The book is well-paced, with vivid descriptions, and plenty of suspense and action. There are violent scenes, some of which are quite graphic. However, there is also normal college life and moments of humour.

Felix and his friends are all realistically portrayed and wonderfully fleshed out. As are The Faceman and other villains of the piece.

I was surprised and slightly disappointed to find the end of the book wasn’t the end of this complex story and I am eager to find out what the author has planned next, for Felix and his friends.

I received an ecopy of “The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen” from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Reeling from a terrible accident that claimed the lives of his parents, Felix arrives at Portland College hoping only to survive the experience. In time, however, his reality star roommate shows him there is more to higher education than just classes, shared bathrooms and bad dorm food, and Felix gradually dares to believe he can put his past behind him. But a fateful storm looms on the horizon: In the nearby woods, two hikers become the latest victims in a series of gruesome murders; a disfigured giant embarks on a vicious cross-country rampage, killing teenagers who fail his ‘test’; and an ancient society of assassins tasked with eradicating the wielders of a mysterious source of power awakens after a long silence. Only one man–the school’s groundskeeper–knows that the seemingly unrelated events are connected, and that an eighteen-year-old boy stands in the center of the storm.
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Awethology Dark

by The #Awethors

A great collection of stories by some awesome authors. Some of the authors were ‘new to me’ and this was a great introduction to their writing.

I find with most anthologies, that I prefer some stories to others and this book isn’t really any different. Though in fairness to all the authors involved, I have to say that I am struggling to pick only one or two favourites, as they were all well written and all held my interest.

I am looking forward, with anticipation, to reading the other book of the pair, Awethology Light

Because one voice in your head isn’t enough, here are so many more, as the Awethors chime together with our vast collection of stories and poetry to make you laugh, make you cry and make you feel alive. We are the Awethors and these are our words to you.

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Vampyr: The Complete Trilogy

by K. M. McFarland

I enjoyed this somewhat steamy trilogy, and getting to know all the characters and their relationships to one another.
K. M. McFarland has taken the vampire genre and given it a new twist, giving us vampires with ‘humanity’ but without losing their predatory nature, and a unique take on vampire reincarnation.
My feelings towards the characters changed often, some for the better and others from like to dislike, depending on their role within the story.

As characters joined, left and reappeared, it could have got complicated and confusing, but the author kept it all straight in my mind.

My only complaint would be the occasional repetitiveness of one character explaining the past to one another, but all in all, it was an entertaining and interesting read.

The author gifted an ecopy of this trilogy to me

Vampires are alive and well in the Big Easy. In the modern world of forensics, technology, and security cameras everywhere, vampires are now forced to live in secret. In this new age where vampires have evolved into gentle predators mainly depending on alternative methods for acquiring blood, vampire bars have risen in popularity. Owned by a former rock star turned vampire, Quinn Forrester, Vampyr is New Orleans’ most popular venue. Aside from being the French Quarter’s coolest music club, it is also a secret vampire bar serving the finest quality human blood to its vampire clientele. The cryptic alley next to it seduces the most delectable humans just itching to quench a vampire’s thirst. Welcome to Vampyr…

SONG OF THE VAMPIRE: Successful rock star, Quinn Forrester, isolates himself after being turned to a vampire. Eighteen years later, a chance meeting with the daughter he abandoned as a baby the night he was turned shakes his lonely, tormented world.

UNDER A BOURBON STREET MOON: Quinn and his vampire lover seem to have the perfect romance, but their relationship is put to the test when a beautiful mortal woman from his past and an adorable country singer, who has just arrived from Nashville with her own connection to Quinn, enter his world.

MASQUERADE: Quinn has his hands full as the owner of all three vampire bars in New Orleans. As he gets closer to his new attractive young personal assistant, the successful entrepreneur also must deal with a vampire daughter, a mortal daughter who sees dead people, a spiritually connected vampire ex-girlfriend who is her mentor and a deceased ex-wife that just won’t stay dead.
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Now You See Her…

by Dale Mayer

I enjoyed this book and felt immersed in the story. I tagged along as Dean and Stefan struggled to keep Tia safe and find out who was targeting her. It was a fast-paced read, with plenty going on to keep me engaged.
The characters were well defined, realistic and likable.
The story was a rollercoaster of emotions as Tia and Dean came to terms with their abilities and their feelings for each other.
Although this is book 8 in the Psychic Vision series, it does work well as a stand alone book.
I have read books 1-3 of the series and fully intend to get back and read 4-7, when I have time.
I received an eCopy of Now You See Her… from Barclay Publicity in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Energy. The life force of good … and evil
And sometimes evil is stronger.

Tia spent years imprisoned in a ‘special’ program. When she finally escaped, she ran as far away as she could. But it wouldn’t leave her alone.

Only one person can help her. Stefan. But when she contacts him for help, she gets more than she bargained for. Six weeks later, she awakens from a coma to find more problems than ever – and she’s still being hunted.

Dean, moonlighting as a guard at the hospital, finds himself in an impossible situation. His belief system is stretched out of control by someone whom he can’t forget … and can’t believe. Until he has no choice.

With everything on the line, Tia and Dean must work together to solve the problem that has somehow – in a very unique way – entwined them both.

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Desert Wolf

by Heather Long
When I first started reading this book, I was a bit confused as to who all the characters were, but as I read on everything, and everyone, fell into place.
The book is well written and moves along at a good pace, with plenty of action and adventure.
The characters are interesting and well fleshed out. Their interactions and emotions are believable, and this made me care about what happened to them.

It’s an entertaining read, which can be read as a stand-alone story, despite being part of a series.
I haven’t read any of the previous books in the Wolves of Willow Bend series, although I do now want to. I’d like to know what happened before.

I received an eCopy of Desert Wolf from Barclay Publicity in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Cassius, Alpha of Sutter Butte, leads the most ruthless and dangerous pack in the United States. A pack comprised of misfits who didn’t fit in their previous packs, cast offs discarded by their packs and forgotten wolves who rose to create a pack more than a century before it utter defiance of the order of the day. Sometimes pitiless and cruel, he wants more for his people than a yearly bloodbath as they fight for a new place, a better spot in the pecking order. To change his pack, means to change himself and he will find rebellion on all sides, not the least of which is his own defiant heart.

Sovvan Stark, Omega of Delta Crescent, lives a cherished, beloved life in the center of her pack, a delicate and hard won balance. Though she is not the only Omega, she is the most experienced with the tremors of pack upset when power shifts from Alpha to Alpha. When her Alpha approaches her about Sutter Butte’s request, Sovvan considers the matter for several long months. While she might hold within her the key to helping the Sutter Butte Alpha, the undertaking could very well kill her.

Accompanied by a single Hound, Sovvan begins a journey to help Cassius rebuild the foundation of his pack, but first she will have to transform him…

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Where Death Is a Hunter

by Christopher Stookey

An exciting, well-written, fast-paced book that is a mix of medical drama, legal drama, and mystery.
It kept my attention from cover to cover, and with a multitude of suspects it was impossible to identify the offender before the climax.
The author is a doctor and his medical background shows in the stories realistic feel. He focuses on what’s important and doesn’t get bogged down with irrelevant details and jargon, which makes this book easy to read and understand.
Hannah is such a great character, that she slightly overshadows the supporting cast, who weren’t quite as fleshed out but still believable.

I received an eCopy of Where Death Is a Hunter from Christopher Stookey in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

 

Hannah Fâtier is a thirty-two-year-old physician fresh out of residency training. She’s just started her first job as an anesthesiologist at Deaconess Hospital in San Francisco, she’s bought a new home, and she’s engaged to be married.

In short, life is good for Hannah–until, one morning at work, tragedy strikes. A patient under her care dies unexpectedly during a routine operation. An investigation into the case reveals the cause of death to be a basic medical error committed by Hannah. Wracked with guilt, Hannah falls into a malaise of depression and self-reproach. Yet the more she ponders her alleged “error,” the more she realizes that something about the way her patient died doesn’t add up. Digging deeper into the records of the case, Hannah discovers a number of puzzling inconsistencies. She begins to suspect that someone has framed her for a medical mistake she never made. But who would do such a thing and why? And, more importantly, if there was no medical error, then why did her patient really die that morning on the operating table?

Where Death Is a Hunter is a medical mystery dealing with hospital death, betrayal, one doctor’s self-doubt, and the search for redemption.

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6 Ways to Where

by R. Mac Wheeler
The characters were superbly portrayed, as were their interactions with one another. Mar particularly caught my imagination as a strong but flawed teen.
The writing was descriptive and drew me into the story.
The suspense and build up was well written, along with the action scenes, but I felt that something was missing, that I was waiting for something to happen.
I’m not sure whether or not it’s because this is the 3rd book of the series and I haven’t read the previous two.

I received an eCopy of 6 Ways to Where from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

At eighteen it’s tough to decide a life path when the threat of pandemic hangs over the world, your brother is the genius who engineered the plague, and you’re repeatedly drawn into the fight against the terrorists spreading it. Plenty of people would kill an Abernathy on sight so it would be wise for Mar to visit the dojo, otherwise play invisible, but her brother is manipulating her into another adventure.

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A Boo-tiful Halloween

by Angela Shori

The illustrations in this short children’s book are bright and colourful, and the ‘monsters’ aren’t at all scary.

The vocabulary doesn’t seem too challenging for the upper age range (5 yrs) that this book is aimed at.
At the same time, it would be a fun book to read to younger children.

I received an eCopy of A Boo-tiful Halloween from Angela Shori in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review From Dreydon -aged 5

I liked it.
The liked all the pictures, they were a bit spooky.
It was easy to read.

Gather all your ghouls and goblins for a colorful journey with the friendly monsters of A Boo-tiful Halloween.
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Rawblood

by Catriona Ward
I don’t like to leave things unfinished, so deciding not to read this book all the way to the last page was hard for me. I nearly didn’t leave a review, but on reflection I think I should.

I gave it a good shot, I read 152 of the 352 pages and I can’t say that it’s a ‘bad’ book, it’s just not for me. The writing is descriptive and the book is well-edited, but nothing much happened.

I was bored and eventually decided that I have far too many books on my to-read list to persevere with this one.

I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

In 1910, eleven year old Iris Villarca lives with her father at Rawblood, a lonely house on Dartmoor. Iris and her father are the last of their name. The Villarcas always die young, bloodily. Iris knows it’s because of a congenital disease which means she must be strictly isolated. Papa told her so. Forbidden to speak to other children or the servants, denied her one friend, Iris grows up in solitude. But she reads books. And one sunlit autumn day, beside her mother’s grave, she forces the truth from her father. The disease is biologically impossible. A lie, to cover a darker secret.

The Villarcas are haunted, through the generations, by her. She is white, skeletal, covered with scars. Her origins are a mystery but her purpose is clear. When a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child – she comes and death follows.

Iris makes her father a promise: to remain alone all her life. But when she’s fifteen, she breaks it. The consequences of her choice are immediate and horrific.

Iris’s story is interwoven with the past, the voices of the dead – Villarcas, taken by her. Iris’s grandmother sets sail from Dover to Italy with a hired companion, to spend her final years in the sun before consumption takes her. Instead she meets betrayal, and a fate worse than death. Iris’s father, his medical career in ruins, conducts unconscionable experiments, to discover how she travels in the Villarca blood. Iris’s mother, pregnant, walks the halls of Rawblood whispering to her, coaxing her to come. As the narratives converge, Iris seeks her out in a confrontation which shatters her past and her reality, revealing the chasm in Iris’s own, fractured identity. Who is she? What does she desire? The answer is more terrible and stranger than Iris could have imagined.

Walking Between Worlds by J.K. Norry

Author: J.K. Norry
Book: Fall of the Walker King (Walking Between Worlds, Book III)
Genre: Contemporary/Philosophical Fantasy
Release Date: December 1st, 2015

About the series

 

Some warriors have a special sensitivity, a rare compassion that makes them the perfect soldier for the perfect army. In life, these men and women are superlative fighters and law officers. In life, they often discover that their instinct for justice hinders or destroys their career in a sometimes imperfect army. In life, these souls are bent and broken by bureaucracy. It is not until death touches them that these unique warriors truly come alive. They become Walkers, immortal soldiers in an eternal army that wages constant war on the demons of humanity.


In the Walking Between Worlds trilogy and companion tales, the world of the Walker is finally revealed. Heroes that have lived in the shadows for thousands of years tell their stories at last, as a new story takes shape in present-day San Francisco. A new Walker is made that must undo centuries of damage as he risks everything in a desperate search for his lost love. One man must forge a path wide enough for everyone who walks between worlds, or see the way of the Walker lost forever.

The angels in heaven have capitalized on the situation rather than correct it, and the dragons in hell rule their realm with fire. Both forces stand against the Walker army as its new king is thrust into power and cast into danger time and again. From epic battles below to all-out war above, these brave patriots of the universe put everything on the line to save an unknowing world once more. If anyone can find a way, it is them . . . but time is running out, and the light is growing dim . . .

Book I – Demons & Angels


Meet the unsung heroes of the supernatural, those who walk between worlds to help humans battle their demons. This is the spellbinding tale of a special group of people whose lives were changed forever when their eyes were opened to a new reality. Watch the ordinary collide with the extraordinary to test the mettle of their souls and the power of their love.

The first book in an exciting new series, Walking Between Worlds; Book I: Demons & Angels introduces us to a new way of looking at both the natural and the supernatural worlds. Join Paul Stone and Kris Reed as they walk between worlds in search of answers and themselves.

Book II – Rise of the Walker King

Step once again into the lives of Walker Paul and his trusted Guide Kris as they delve deeper into the meaning of walking between worlds and battling people’s demons.


Walking Between Worlds; Book II: Rise of the Walker King continues the exciting saga begun in Book I. Now that the king has risen to power, he must look within and without for answers to save both himself and the Walker’s world.

With friendly devils and murderous angels, dragons that belch flames and demons that run like a river, this philosophical fantasy will delight the adventurous spirit that walks between worlds in all of us.

 

Book III – Fall of the Walker King


Walking Between Worlds, Book III: Fall of the Walker King brings the Walking Between Worlds trilogy to a breathtaking and explosive conclusion. Walk alongside characters old and new as they navigate Hellish realms where blood rains from the sky, and Heavenly worlds that would imprison or destroy their very souls.

As war looms above and violence simmers below, a dark danger is lurking between worlds that threatens every realm. A new Walker struggles to fulfill his destiny while the old fight for their very lives. With the fate of all the worlds in the balance, a new way must form to take the place of the old as everything falls away. Yet it must be enough, and it must come in time . . .

 

Jay Norry Bio


Jay Norry is the author of Stumbling Backasswards into the Light, a spiritual autobiographical novel set in the mountains of the Puget Sound, and Walking Between Worlds (as J.K. Norry), a fantasy series set in San Francisco. He is the owner of Sudden Insight Publishing, an indie publishing company he founded in 2014 as a venue in which to publish his books. In 2016, Jay will join the Underground Book Reviews (www.undergroundbookreviews.org) team as a monthly columnist (Norry’s Toolbox) and indie book reviewer.

Currently Jay resides in Northern California with his girlfriend/Girl Friday, Dawn, and their dogs, Mammoth & Ximena. When he’s not busy writing, Jay enjoys wine tasting, gardening, coming up with new DIY projects, and fixing things around the house MacGyver-style.

Jay’s books are published by Sudden Insight Publishing (www.suddeninsightpublishing.com)

Read his blog on spirituality, writing, and life in general at blog.jaynorry.com

Connect with Jay/J.K. Norry
 
 
Demons & Angels (Walking Between Worlds, Book I)
by J.K. Norry

CHAPTER ONE

 The alarm clock was going off, a high-pitched grating pulse of sound echoing loudly off the walls. It had been going off for a while, but the shapeless form huddled under the covers made no move to silence it.
It was a small room, dirty and messy at the same time. There was an ashtray on every surface; the nightstand, the dresser, the mismatched speakers that cluttered each corner. Every ashtray was full, overflowing with cigarette butts and half-smoked joints. Posters and tapestries decorated the walls in a random rock theme that spanned the decades. The white walls were yellowed with age and smoke, cobwebs wisping where they met the ceiling.
Against one wall was an electric guitar on an upright stand, the only thing in the room that didn’t look like junk, a dark blue Fender Stratocaster. A black cord trailed from its snug housing in the body of the guitar to a knee-high amplifier sitting nearby. Another ashtray sat on the amp, a dusting of ashes all around it. A small television was housed in a beat up oak entertainment center whose remaining shelves were dominated by long tangles of guitar pedals and extension cords, open empty compact disc cases and a haphazard teetering stack of old vinyl.
A steady rhythmic pounding joined the blare of the alarm clock, and a voice shouted muffled through the wall. The thin sheetrock shook with the force of the pounding.
The covers stirred, an arm reached out from beneath them and silenced the alarm. Mason threw the covers off and rolled out of bed, his feet clumsily finding the floor. He sat on the edge of the mattress for a long moment, elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands. Heaving a sigh, he peeked a look at the digital face of the alarm clock. He cursed.
Then he was a flurry of action, dressing himself frantically in jeans and sweatshirt. One moment sitting still in boxers and a stained tank top, his mussed longish hair askew in every direction; the next he was up and moving, opening and closing dresser drawers and tripping through piles of soiled clothes on the floor. Two doorways cut the wall opposite the entrance into thirds, one a doorless passage into his small excuse for a kitchen and the other a door open to the cramped bathroom. Dashing in and out of the open door, he emerged first with his hair wet and flattened to his head, then with a toothbrush sticking from his mouth, then with a hand towel he held cautiously to his dripping face. He crinkled his nose in distaste and threw it to the floor. Wiping droplets of water from his skin with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, Mason worked his feet into his sneakers and bent to tie the darkened laces.
On his way out the door, he stopped at an ashtray and pulled two half-smoked joints from the ugly collection of twisted stained tan speckled filters. A smashed cigarette butt fell from the ashtray to roll onto the speaker and from there to the stiff carpet below. Mason didn’t bother to pick it up. He put one joint in his pocket and one between his lips and walked out the front door.

CHAPTER TWO

 Paul pushed his way through the swinging steeled glass into the coffee shop. The jangle of the bell hanging over the door announced his arrival, and he stopped a moment just inside the entrance to gaze about the room. A wave of aroma greeted him, the warm welcome smell of fresh brewed coffee tickling his nostrils pleasantly.
The place was huge, especially considering how many customers frequented the spot. Longer than it was wide, the single room was wide enough yet for four tables, the coffee bar and aisles between all of them. A paneled wooden island on a sea of hardwood floor, the coffee bar was long and narrow, twin counters mirroring each other with matted work space between. Two people behind the bar would have trouble passing without touching, but the length of it would let three or four people move about freely. Stools were placed along the length of the bar for customers, steel and vinyl and old and currently unoccupied. The island was closed at one end by a cash register facing the entrance and a swinging waist-high door at the opposite end. A slab of counter on hinges served as horizontal barrier above the thin swinging door. Sturdy wooden tables were placed almost randomly about the open hardwood floor. There were less than twenty, though the space could have easily held twice that. Only three were occupied, less than half a dozen customers in the whole place.
Paul approached the register as the girl behind the counter turned to see who had come in. She smiled, a pretty sweet smile under pretty honeyed blonde hair and pretty bright blue eyes.
“Good morning, Paul,” she said. “White mocha?”
“Morning, Jessica,” Paul smiled back. “Yes, please.”
“Brenna’s here,” Jessica inclined her head toward a table in the back while she rung up his order. “Anything to eat?”
“Yeah, a blueberry muffin,” Paul answered, digging his wallet out of his back pocket. He dropped a dollar bill in the tip jar that sat next to the register and handed her a twenty. She counted out his change and reached it across the counter.
As their hands touched, Paul heard an explosion. Loud and muffled at the same time, it was followed by a thin, shrill scream. He jerked his hand back, looking around the shop bewildered. No one stirred or looked up; no one did anything. His eyes met hers, his heart pounding.
“You okay?” Jessica asked him. She was still holding out his change, but her look had become one of concern.
Paul looked around again. “You didn’t hear that?” he asked her quietly.
“Hear what?” She cocked her head to listen.
“Nothing.” Paul shook his head. “I must be hearing things. Thanks, Jess.” He took his change and walked the length of the bar. It wasn’t until he was almost at Brenna’s table that he noticed the big man huddled over another table in the corner furthest from the entrance.
“Morning, Roche.” Paul called to him.
Surrounded by books and ledgers sprawled haphazardly across the table, the man seemed oblivious to his environment. A big round head sat atop his mountainous shoulders, bald and topped with a battered black fedora. A blue pocket tee tried to contain the bulk of his torso, and a pack of cigarettes strained the pocket on his left breast even further. He made a notation in the ledger before him, cursed, erased it, and glanced up.
“Paul,” he nodded, then looked back down at the page before him.
Brenna had her laptop on the table and a tablet of hand-written notes beside it. They both sat neatly square with the edge of the tabletop, a cup of coffee just within reach on one side and an untouched slice of lemon poundcake on the other. She stopped typing as he approached and looked up at him.
Her hair was black and straight, parted down the middle to brush against her shoulders equally on both sides. The dark of her hair was in stark contrast to her smooth and milky white skin, and her face was a study in perfection. High cheekbones, full red lips and a small button of a nose all took a backseat to the beauty of her eyes, though. So brown they were almost black, Brenna’s eyes seemed to swirl with depth and beauty and sensuality. She had a way of looking up at him without raising her head that he found adorably breathtaking. A little horizontal line appeared across her forehead, and her big dark eyes got bigger and somehow more beautiful. It was how she was looking at him now. A slow smile started on her lips as their eyes met, and Paul leaned over to cover it with his own smile. She tasted of coffee and mint and lipstick.
“Good morning, gorgeous,” Paul sat next to her as she snapped shut the laptop. She took a moment to close the notebook and set it perfectly square on top of the computer, then slid them both to the center of the table. When she was done, she turned sideways in her chair toward Paul and put her hand on his knee and her full attention on him. He saw the agate oval that hung always at her throat from a delicate silver chain, hovering over the modest cut of her light blouse.
“Good morning, my love.” Her voice was soft and low, and her eyes lingered on his. “Are we still on for tonight?”
Paul nodded while Jessica approached the table with his order. “Absolutely,” he told Brenna, then looked up at Jessica while she placed the coffee and muffin on the table. “Thanks, Jess.”
He sipped his coffee and turned again to Brenna. “Where’s your brother?”
She rolled her eyes and frowned a little. “He didn’t come home last night.” When she saw Paul’s frown, she squeezed his knee gently. “Don’t worry, he’ll be here. Where’s Kris?”
“Running late. As usual.” A plain round clock hung on the wall above Roche, and Paul turned to glance at it. He reached across the table and slid Brenna’s breakfast and fork in front of her. “Better eat while you have time,” he said, and took a giant bite of his muffin. Crumbs littered the table while he reached to snatch a paper napkin from the small stack by her plate.
Her fingers, slim and delicate, moved from Paul’s knee to pick up her fork. She cut a small perfect square from the corner of the cake and slid the fork underneath it gingerly. She chewed slowly and deliberately as she spread a paper napkin over her right knee. She swallowed, had a sip of coffee, and turned her gaze on Paul again.
“What time tonight?” she asked.
Paul shrugged. “I should be home about six or six thirty. I can be at your place by seven.” He took another sip of his white mocha. It was cooling down, so he took a long drink.
“Okay,” she nodded. She glanced at the clock, and her fingers strayed unconsciously to the amulet at her throat. “I should probably get going.” Brenna was never late. For anything. Ever.
The door opened then, the bell clanging noisily as two young men entered arguing.
Tall, with dark hair cut short and styled to careless perfection, one man moved his hands excitedly as he spoke. “It’s called a pre-emptive strike,” he was saying loudly. “The best defense is a good offense.”
His companion was shorter, with a slight build and more subtle gestures. He was shaking his head slowly. Blue jeans and tee shirt and a light jacket all hung loose on his frame, and his hands were stuffed into the pockets of his jacket. Light brown hair covered his head in disheveled clumps, constantly threatening to fall into his eyes.
“How can you be the one defending yourself if you are the asshole that strikes first?” He was still shaking his head. “How can you know what would happen if you didn’t attack if you always open with an attack?”
“It’s the nature of the beast,” the dark-haired one answered with finality. “These savages will move in at the first sign of weakness.” His smile came as easily as the other’s frown, and he seemed to be clearly enjoying the banter.
His companion appeared visibly uncomfortable, on the other hand. “We’re not talking about war, we’re talking about women,” he said icily. He pulled his hands from his pockets and pushed a lump of hair from his forehead, quickly sweeping the room with a shy stare. Sharp gray eyes took it all in and came to rest on the girl standing behind the register. His eyes widened a little, a shy smile lit his face for a moment; then he looked away and stuffed his hands back in his pockets.
“Good morning, Jessica,” he said, staring at the floor. He pronounced her name carefully, like it was a sacred thing.
“Hey, Kris,” she replied, glancing away from the taller man behind him for a moment and then back. With a voice lower and slower she said, “Good morning, Matt.”
“Hey, Jess,” Matt answered as he stepped between Kris and the counter. “Two cups of your finest house brew, please. My companion will surely need cream and sugar; he can only swallow life and coffee masked by false sweetness.”
“I customize my coffee to my taste,” Kris said defiantly. He threw a scornful look at Matt and a softer one at Jessica before returning his eyes to the floor. “I don’t just drink any dark and bitter brew someone else serves up for me.”
A bark of laughter, and Matt called out to the man at the back of the room. “Hey Roach, Kris thinks your coffee is dark and bitter.”
“Roche!” The man called out without looking up, correcting the intentional mispronunciation with deliberate rudeness. He made a mark in the journal before him, closed it, and stood up. Glaring balefully at Matt, he grumbled, “He was talking about life, not coffee, jackass.” Roche turned to Kris. “Good morning, young man,” he said, almost smiling. “Still casting your pearls before swine?”
It was Kris’ turn to laugh. By the time he returned the older man’s greeting, Roche had turned and gone through the door at the back wall that said ‘OFFICE’ on a black and white plastic plaque affixed firmly at eye level. It slammed shut behind him.
Kris walked to their table, doffing his jacket and hanging it on his chair as he sat, while Matt got their coffee and followed him over.
“Hey, guys,” Matt said casually as he sat lightly on a chair across from Brenna, setting his companion’s cup on the table as he took the adjacent seat.
“You’re late,” Brenna said. Her voice was forgiving and reproachful at the same time.
“The day doesn’t start until I start the day,” Matt grinned. “I’m always on time, little sister.”
“Drink your coffee,” she said, ignoring him. “Don’t make Paul late for work.”
He ignored her for a moment too, reaching across the table to seize the rest of her lemon pound cake. Picking it up with his fingers, he bit off half of what was left in one huge bite and raised an eyebrow at her across the table. He gulped loudly, took a long pull off his coffee, gasped at the heat, gulped again and asked, “You weren’t going to eat that, were you?”
Brenna rolled her eyes and stood up. “I’ve got to go,” she announced. She looked hard at Matt. “I believe we all do.”
Matt gazed up at his sister, and Paul was struck anew at how alike they could look sometimes. The very expression that was adorable to him on Brenna he thought made Matt appear a helpless silly puppy dog. Matt’s long string of lovers surely thought it the other way around.
They made for the door all at once, cutting the number of customers in the coffee shop by half in one fell swoop. When they reached the door, Paul opened it and stood back, holding it open for the rest of them. Brenna reached out and brushed her fingers lightly across his abdomen, passing by first. Matt made as if to punch him in the gut as he walked by, his good-natured feint ending inches from Paul’s stomach. As Kris passed, he mumbled thanks to Paul and stole one last glance at Jessica over his shoulder as she waved goodbye to the group. A smile played on the corners of his mouth as his eyes met Paul’s. . .
. . . And when their eyes met, Paul heard it again: a loud thunderous crash, followed by a blood-curdling scream. It was louder this time, and he blanched, letting go of the door. It swung shut, barely missing Kris as he stepped hastily outside. Hanging there above the swinging steel and glass, the little brass bell bumped and rolled over the top of the door, clanging noisily. It clanged again as Kris opened the door and poked his head in, a concerned look on his face.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Kris said, stepping inside again. “Are you okay, man?”
Jessica had come up behind him, looking just as concerned. “Paul? Are you alright?” She touched his shoulder lightly.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Paul forced a smile. “You guys didn’t hear that?”
“Hear what?” Jessica and Kris asked together.
“Nothing.” Paul shook his head, as if to clear it, and reached for the door again. The brass bell danced across the swing of steel, its last frayed thread giving way a little bit, but not breaking. It clanged again as the door swung shut behind them; then it hung silent and still, just a little lower than it had before.
Gathered outside, Brenna couldn’t decide who to fuss over. She turned to Matt, but her eyes kept coming back to Paul. Taking Paul’s hand, she spoke stern to her brother. “You should take him home; let him call in to work for both of you.”
Paul was shaking his head. “I’m fine, sweetie.” Encircling his arm around her slim waist, he pulled her close. “Besides, it’s his first day, if I do get him a job. He can’t call in on his first day.”
Dark pools of love looked up at him, but her eyes turned to black ice when she looked at Matt. “He’ll find a way to screw it up anyway.”
Paul nuzzled Brenna’s hair, in part to breathe in the smell of her and in part to hide his smile. Looking over the top of her head, he noticed a man standing across the street watching them. His garb oddly both out of season and out of place, he stared at Paul intently with neither guile nor candor. The man wore a leather cowboy hat and matching leather overcoat hanging from broad shoulders nearly to the ground. Leather boots poked out from under the long duster.
His whole outfit seemed cut from the same bolt of thick leather. Surely striking when new, the ensemble now hung limp, battered and worn. A deep oiled brown on the armpits, the overcoat was faded to a dry blond in many places. Clumsy stitches held the coat together in three different places with three different colors. At its hem, the trench coat looked scorched, and the boots had the same beaten and battered and burnt color. Banded in what looked like dull red snakeskin, the leather cowboy hat was perhaps the most abused part of his whole outfit. Misshapen by a dent, it looked like a part of the brim had been sliced off clean. A pair of holes the size of marbles punctuated the planned hollows of the hat, a few inches forward from the unnatural grapefruit-sized concavity. Apparently there were matching holes on the other side, as Paul could see daylight through them when the man turned his head slightly. He could also see little black rings around the holes, like scorch marks.
Paul was overwhelmed by an otherworldly feeling as he looked at the strange man, and he swooned a bit as he brought himself back into his world of Matt and Kris. And Brenna. He breathed her in deep, glad she hadn’t noticed him waver a moment earlier. Paul focused on their words as she argued with her brother.
“It’s like you think I can’t do anything right,” Matt was complaining. The only time he was not the picture of strength and confidence was around his sister. All it took was a critical word from Brenna, and the man became a boy again.
“No, you’re good at lots of things,” Brenna responded blithely. “Short and shallow relationships, making promises you don’t keep, pissing away money.” Her body was stiff and rigid against Paul, only increasing the discomfort he always felt when the siblings went at it. Later, he knew, he could look forward to each of them seeking a private moment with him to complain at length about the other. He would validate both of them, feeling they were each wrong in their way but never saying so. She knew her weaknesses and her limits; it was his happy job to let her blow off steam without fear of criticism. And her brother . . . well, lecturing Matt was as useless and obvious as telling a tree it is made of wood.
Paul pulled Brenna close to him. “Sweetie,” he said. He was going to say, “We have to get going”, but the door opened behind them, swinging inward to the coffee shop.
After announcing countless arrivals and departures, hanging as silent sentinel in between, the brass bell clanged once as it climbed over the top of the door one last time. Rolling, it clanged again and then again and dropped to the length of the one last thread holding it suspended. The thread snapped soundlessly, and the bell fell just as silently through open space. It clanged again as it hit the floor and half-rolled, half-skittered between the four friends and to the edge of the sidewalk. One more roll and it would have been in the street. Instead, it sat at the curb; silent, still and unnoticed.

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