Courage Lost by R. Scott Mackey

Courage Lost by R. Scott Mackey
A Ray Courage Mystery, Book 5
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (258 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Private Investigator Ray Courage returns in his most complex case yet, one that readers and critics are heralding as the best in the hugely popular mystery series. Billionaires Isabella and Wyatt Carlyle have been estranged from their son for twenty years. With Isabella at death’s door, she wants to bring her son back into the family. Ray’s search for the now forty-year old son takes him to Monterey, California, where he encounters a cast of seedy characters more than eager to lead him to the heir of the Carlyle fortune. But his search is complicated by the seemingly unrelated murder of a rival private eye. At the same time, a young man is brutally attacked in Honduras and left for dead. Does this relate to Ray’s case? With a cast of memorable characters and Mackey’s graceful prose, this gripping page-turner delivers on every front and will have you guessing until the final page.

From the moment Ray Courage said “I smiled stupidly. Perhaps my signature expression.” I was curled up and ready to read this book.

I like my private investigators kind of caring, a little sarcastic, with a sense of humor and a little bit of a smart mouth. If you agree, you’ll like this story. I loved it. This book has pretty well everything you want in a mystery. There are of course, your standard good and bad guys; moments that make you smile and those that make you mad. There are plenty of twists and turns you did not expect here but all are quite plausible. A better way to say this is if you like Harry Starke or Michael McLaren or even Travis McGee you are going to like this book as much as I did.

This book was what I call a clean read. By that I’m not referring to the editing although I will say the editing in this book was superb. What I mean by “clean” is that everything fit together, the storyline flowed through the whole book. There was never a dull moment. This book makes your mind work and its characters are really well-defined. It makes you want to like the good guys and catch the bad ones. All of these many aspects existed in this book by R Scott Mackey.

I was very lucky to be the one to review this book about Ray Courage. This is book five. I sure intend to read the other four.

Spell Caster by Leah Hamrick

Spell Caster by Leah Hamrick
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (165 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Three paranormal short stories. One sweet, one dark, one fun. Which one will be your favorite?

Love Caster: There is nothing greater than pure, sweet love, and that’s something Anna Bowden knows all about. While trying to get the courage to kiss her boyfriend Killian, she has to deal with her overbearing dad, who will stop at nothing to tear them apart.

In the Darkness: After Anna Bowden witnesses someone—or something—lurking in her backyard, it starts a chain of frightening events that leads to a gruesome discovery.

First Holiday: Featuring the characters from Frost On My Pillow—be prepared for a sweet, fun, wild ride. While Ethan gives Lyla—who has never celebrated Christmas before— the task of finding out the true meaning of the holiday, he surreptitiously tries to tell her how he really feels, but before that can occur, a lot of decorating and snowball fights has to happen!

Three stories can be better than one!

Spell Caster is a collection of three paranormal short stories. The first two stories focus on Anna and Killian and the special powers they possess. The two stories are interesting in that they look at the world from the eyes of youth with special powers. Anna has the genealogy of witchcraft which is shunned by her parents, so she must hide her own powers from all of those around her. Strange things and strange interactions do occur and there is often little that she can do about it.

The third story involves paranormal aspects, but is much heavier on the beliefs and customs of those who walk the world without special powers. This story has two completely different characters who are at two completely different points in their lives than Anna and Killian. Though this story is very engaging it felt very out of place after reading the first two stories.

I did enjoy the characters from the first two stories, I feel that the two stories taken as one longer-continuous story would have the greatest benefit. Although the third story was enjoyable, I feel that I was left out in the cold. The character development from the first two stories greatly surpassed the character development in the third story. The backstory and history of the characters and the involvement of the supportive characters in the first two stories led to a more dynamic and involving tone. The title of the book is even slipped into the first story and is played on in the second story. Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple of minor instances in the third story, it seems almost completely separate.

Some of the dialog felt forced and did not flow smoothly. Some of the storyline in all three stories felt rushed and I feel that much detail had been left out, which in turn hurt the overall flow of the stories. I feel that one longer more involved and continuous story would have benefitted the overall theme and focus that the author is working to convey. I do appreciate and support the direction that the author has positioned the book as a whole, but I feel that a stronger and more involved story line would have done these characters more justice.

If you are in the mood for three fun stories that will challenge how you look at the world around you, I recommend picking up a copy of Spell Caster!

Lunar Rampage by Samantha Cross

Lunar Rampage by Samantha Cross
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (302 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Photographer, animal lover, and unfortunately for the summer, the new girl in town, Cora Nash considers herself a simple girl. Renovating and living at her grandmother’s house seemed like a good idea, until events took a turn for the bizarre. Garbage cans viciously torn into, howls from the woods, wild animals behaving erratically, and an ominous warning from the good looking bad boy, “Stay out the forest.”

This seemingly normal town hides a mysterious and violent secret. When one of the townsfolk up and disappears in the forest, leaving nothing but a pair of shoes, Cora is the only person willing to investigate. The answer, however, is nothing she could have ever anticipated, when under a full moon she finds herself face to face with a… werewolf.

If werewolves don’t exist, where did it come from? And… more importantly, who could it be?

The forest isn’t quite as peaceful as it used to be.

Cora imagined her summer would be filled with memories of reconnecting with her grandma and taking pictures in the forest. She never thought she’d come face to face with a creature straight out of her worst nightmare. Worst of all, the werewolf might be someone Cora knows. Will she figure out who the werewolf is before it is too late? I must warn readers that Lunar Rampage contains graphic violence and the descriptions of the werewolves are truly terrifying. Readers sensitive to this sort of content are forewarned.

Cora is definitely one of the quirkiest women I’ve come across in a book. The things she says are so odd and yet it all seems very natural for her. As I read, I was always wondering what would come out of her mouth next. Her eccentric behavior is something she definitely inherited from her grandma. Cora’s grandma, is definitely a hoot. While she’s certainly not like any grandma I’ve ever met, I could clearly picture the woman Ms. Cross created. Although, it was always entertaining to watch Cora and her grandmother, sometimes I do feel like it was a little over the top. Besides her sense of humor, one of the things I like most about Cora is her innate kindness. She is willing to give most people a chance. She sees friendship and possibilities in people that others wouldn’t give a second glance. Consequently, she manages to attract a colorful assortment of friends that really enhance this tale.

Cora and “bad boy” Max have the beginnings of great chemistry. Their first encounter is not exactly pleasant, but once they spend more time together, I could see their attraction beginning to grow. However, every time that Cora and Max got close to acting on their budding romance, something happened to interrupt them. I found this exceedingly frustrating, and I sincerely hope that Ms. Cross has plans to develop their relationship further in the next book.

I have every reason to hope that there will be a sequel to Lunar Rampage. While the ending was satisfying, it also raised a lot of questions and was very open ended. Cora and Max aren’t quite out of danger yet. I’m definitely looking forward to reading about what happens to them next.

I enjoyed reading Lunar Rampage and getting to know a heroine as unique as Cora. Readers looking for a fast paced, hair-raising paranormal would do well to pick up a copy of Lunar Rampage today.

Ribbons of Death by Edita A. Petrick

Ribbons of Death by Edita A. Petrick
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rated: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

The ancients believed that once in a Blue Moon a child with Peacetaker powers is born. Such child, when grown to maturity, can seed murderous madness in people’s minds by merely walking amongst them. A simple amulet activates the Peacetaker’s powers. When a horribly scarred man knocks on the door of Stella Hunter’s ramshackle cottage in upstate Montana, she lets him in. What’s there to lose? The book critics killed her chances to warn the world about myths and legends behind the myths and legends. But once the man pushes a book smudged with bloody fingerprints across the table, Stella sees a glimmer of hope. She may re-establish her credibility within the scientific community and vindicate her ‘peace-taker’ theory. She may also be murdered by anyone standing next to her if her theory is correct because the ancient curse is anything but extinct. In fact, the ancient curse has a new attitude.

The Assistant Director of Cairo Museum of Antiquities has a belief that might well label him as a crackpot, but he knows its real. He desperately wants to discuss it with the incredibly unapproachable billionaire: He’s creative, if a bit desperate, in his plan to reach that person…

We suspect he’s involved in something paranormal, which will lead to chaos at a local event, but is it real? So opens Petrick’s Ribbons of Death. I was involved and intrigued from the outset. The danger seems credible.  And so it seems to the American ‘government consultant,’ Carter. He’s swiftly in pursuit of author and professor Stella Hunter, all the way back in Montana.

She’s a modern-day Medusa, with knowledge of facts behind the legends. What is intuition, what is fact? Pulling the threads of information apart has been her job…but she doesn’t share easily, she’s in a miserable situation, suspicious and rude. Even she has doubts about what–or who–could be behind the myth in modern times. The impact of this ‘terror’ is brought all too convincingly close.

Archeological study as well as mythological plays a role, as does researching what might be relevant in modern times, but there is also action, fights and car chases.

The backdrop, from the local camel market, to peaceful marches and demonstrations, to such out-of the way places ‘Tickle Gas’ in Sunburst Montana is always great, and incredibly visual. When danger marches the street of Washington DC, we gain a sense of the terrible urgency of the quest. The sense of the shifting danger – away from the old world, but not away from an old-world threat, is incredibly strong. However, it is the exceptional, unpredictable plot that makes this book an absolute page-turner. Its a great mystery, but will appeal to more than mystery fans. 5 stars; put this one right at the top of your list.

The Magic World of Bracken Lea by Esma Race

The Magic World of Bracken Lea by Esma Race
Publisher: Solstice
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (94 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A series of ten short stories featuring the Fairy Folk of Bracken Lea Wood: a tale of Nature Spirits for humans of all ages.

Welcome to the magic world of GLODWYN the Gnome. His friends include other gnomes, flower fairies, a Twisted Tree, Astrid the Fairy Queen, and the birds and animals who also live in the wood.

Glodwyn the gnome is a bit of a rebel. He lives and works in the ancient woodland. He is unusual amongst the Fairy Folk in enjoying the company of humans. His good-natured interest in their world seen through the eyes of his unknowing “friend”, Walter the Stacker Truck Driver at the local factory, leads him to interfere in their affairs, with interesting results both for the Fairy Folk and humans. With his help, the Fairy Folk rescue a little boy from drowning, save the life of an injured cat and later that of a confused old lady who collapses in the Wood.

The Fairy Folk raise the alarm when a baby’s mother is taken ill, and later prevent disaster at the baby’s Christening, when a bad fairy threatens the child’s happiness. They help a Leprechaun find his way home, and get a lost engagement ring back to its owner. Both unwitting humans and Fairy Folk working together to save nearby woodland from development. From arranging a litter-pick in the woods to finding a new wand for the Fairy Queen, it is a busy life for the Fairy Folk.

Most people don’t notice magic even if it’s happening right under their noses. Are you one of them?

It’s difficult to discuss just one story because they’re all so closely connected to each other, but one of the most interesting ones in The Magic World of Bracken Lea is “The Unicorn and the Wand.” In it Glodwyn the Gnome and Celandine (a Flower Fairy) search for a unicorn so they can replace something that their queen has lost. The witty dialogue and clever ending made me want to read it again.

Speaking of Celandine, she was my favorite character in this collection. Her sweet, kind personality meshed nicely with Glodwyn’s tendency to act before he thinks. It was especially interesting to see the difference between how each of them reacts to trouble in their woodland home.

It took me a while to figure out the most appropriate age recommendation for this book, and it is a flexible one. I was a little surprised by how often the human characters find themselves in danger in these woods. While the fairies and other creatures are helpful, some of the scenarios might be a little scary for the preschoolers that would otherwise be the perfect age for this collection.

The page count includes illustrations as well as the text. The drawings themselves are simple, rustic, and beautiful. I often found myself paying just as much attention to them as I did to the tales themselves because they so accurately captured what was going on in the plot.

Read these tales in order until you’re familiar with its cast of characters. The first one introduces the reader to Bracken Lea, and the rest regularly revisit faeries and other creatures that originally popped up earlier on in this collection.

Discovering The Magic World of Bracken Lea was a treat. This is a fun choice for anyone looking for something magical to add to story time.

Oliver Muncing, Exorcist by John Paulits

Oliver Muncing, Exorcist by John Paulits
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (150 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

After a catastrophic invasion of elementals from “the other side” kills his grandfather and leaves him crippled, Oliver Muncing vows to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and dedicates his life to investigating other-worldly phenomena.

The problem with piercing the veil and connecting with the spirit world is that not all supernatural beings have good intentions, as Oliver is about to find out.

Imagine trying to prevent others from doing something they don’t realize is extremely hazardous. Most of the people in Oliver’s world don’t realize that seeking out the spirit world is fraught with danger until they’ve invited something into their homes they can’t control. Oliver’s responses to these emergencies aren’t always graceful, but seeing him leap to action to save strangers made me wish his adventures would never end. The first chapter in particular was so intense that I couldn’t imagine where the author intended to take the plot once that scene ended. It was rewarding to see how quickly Oliver leaps from one case to the next as well as how he handles the elementals he meets who are not necessarily friendly beings.

This is a fast-paced, plot-centered novel that is far more concerned with how Oliver relates to the elementals than his personal development. While I was able to intuit a thought-provoking explanation for Oliver’s sometimes obsessive habits it would have been nice to have my theory clearly confirmed or disproven at some point. Had the author included a few additional scenes to explore and further develop Oliver’s idiosyncrasies I would have easily given this tale a Best Book rating.

The foreshadowing, atmosphere, and pacing were absolutely perfect for the sci-fi/fantasy and horror genres. Mr. Paulits knows exactly how to slowly build tension through the addition of small detail that in any other type of story could easily be brushed off as mere coincidence. I had not heard of this author before reading Oliver Muncing, Exorcist, but now that I’ve been introduced to him I can’t wait to read his back list.

If you love supernatural horror I highly recommend checking out Oliver, Muncing, Exorcist. It’s spooky atmosphere and diverse cast of otherworldly beings is an excellent tonic for anyone in the mood to be frightened.

My 18th Birthday by Patricia Lieb

My 18th Birthday by Patricia Lieb
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Historical (Recent)
Length: Full Length (165 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Life in the small tri-states town of Clover, AR-LA-TX, was wonderful until the year 1960; then heartaches of the worse kind led the young guitarist, Annie Jo, to catch a Greyhound bus headed to the city lights of Memphis, TN—there she might be discovered by a talent scout. While riding through Arkansas, she tries to ignore the handsome man giving her more attention than he should. And soon action starts to pop. Annie Jo joins with members of the Civil Rights movement, gets stalked by a drunk, jailed, and kidnapped—all on her 18th birthday.

Today is the big day and Annie Jo is eagerly awaiting the arrival of six PM. Upon that magical hour, she’ll be officially eighteen. In celebration, she’s decided to pack up all that is important to her and hit the bus station – with a one way ticket out of her sleepy little town. Unfortunately, the universe has more in store for her than just a simple bus ride from Texarkana to Memphis. It’s never quite that easy though, is it? Welcome to adulthood, Annie Jo, better hold onto your hat!

Annie Jo is a pretty uncomplicated character and her simplicity makes her endearing and likable from the start. Even while nursing a broken heart and carrying around the weight of things she can’t change, she still manages to look life in the eye and see it for what it is – a rollercoaster ride of emotion and experience. Annie’s a small town girl and it shows. She does the right thing for no other reason than because it’s right. However, her small town outlook does lean towards naiveté at times, only reinforcing her innocence. Sometimes this makes her even more likable and sometimes it makes you shake your head. But she’s always true to herself and that’s a big part of why she’s so interesting.

I enjoyed the way the author told Annie Jo’s story leading up to her decision to leave Clover. She makes the flashbacks into instances of daydreaming while traveling on the bus. It was a creative and non-intrusive way to give us the back story we needed without slapping us in the face with it. I was also very impressed with the way she incorporated Annie Jo’s awakening social consciousness into the story without making it overtly obvious she was doing so. There were two issues I did have with the story. One was the sometimes simplistic sentence structure and the other being the too often repeated descriptions and phrasing. However, it wasn’t enough to completely distract you from the story, only slightly hindering your enjoyment for the moment.

My 18th Birthday is a great coming-of-age story set in the very turbulent times of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. It brings the trials of the times front and center and shows you how one courageous, if a bit naïve girl, might have handled the situation. So much is packed into the twenty-four hours of Annie Jo’s birthday, that you really have to read it to believe it.

My Vampire Savior by Lizzie Stevens

My Vampire Savior by Lizzie Stevens
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (55 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Orchid

Jennifer, a new witch, must team up with Vampires to save her life from a demon who is trying to kill her. She must ask for the help of Jenna Addison to train her for battle and teach her to be a more powerful witch than she is.

Just when you thought Snow Hollow had given up all its secrets, another story appears on the horizon.

Jennifer buried her brother Bobby and carried on with life alone. Drew, the love of her life, disappeared the day Bobby died. She’s always been interested in magic so to put the past behind her, she opens an aromatherapy store. All goes well and three years later she has a thriving business and thinks it might be time to concentrate on her non-existent love life.

Suddenly everything changes. Demons appear, her life is threatened and she learns the past and her family history is different to what she believed. Can the Witches of Snow Hollow help her? And yes – her love life takes a definite turn for the better.

Once again Ms Stevens has taken us into the world of Snow Hollow. Jennifer is a sensible young lady who finds herself up against unbeatable odds. Or are they? Her past returns not to haunt her but to help her. The warmth of love and understanding flows through this fourth in the Snow Hollow series, leaving me with a satisfied feeling at the end.

I only have one complaint with this author’s books. They’re too short! The feeling of being rushed once again took the edge off my enjoyment of a wonderful story. I would love to see this as a full length novel. I really felt as if I was missing something because of the speed of the tale. Well done Ms Stevens. Will there be more (longer!) Snow Hollow books in the future?

Rachel’s Legacy by Lizzie Stevens

Rachel’s Legacy by Lizzie Stevens
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational
Length: Short Story (109 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Orchid

Rachel Connors loved her life, and her job as a manager at a ski resort in Aspen Colorado, but after learning she was ill, she decided to take a long needed vacation to her parent’s home. This was when she met Kyle Landers, who in her absence had moved into her parent’s lives, and before he’d even met Rachel, Kyle had decided not to like her. Kyle had been alone in the world when Rachel’s parents had taken him in; and he couldn’t understand why their ungrateful daughter had chosen to distance herself from them.

Rachel and Kyle grew closer, and she knew she was falling for him, but it wasn’t until his accident when she learned that he also loved her. Rachel was scheduled to pick Kyle up from the hospital upon his release, but a call from her doctor summoned her back to Aspen, telling her parents there was a problem at work. When Kyle hears of this, he boards a plane to find her, learning the truth of her condition. Their love blossomed but it was to be short lived when on their flight back to the ranch the plane crashed. Despite an extensive search, Kyle was never found, and Rachel was forced to go on without him.

Four years had passed, and Rachel’s relationship with Marcus, her new boyfriend, was moving to a different level, but at the same time, the thought dead Kyle had come out of his coma; his mind lost in the events four years earlier. After Rachel accepted Marcus’ proposal, Kyle returns, leaving Rachel with a dilemma. For four years Marcus had been by her side, but now Kyle was back, wanting her just as much as he had the day of the crash. She needed to get away to make her decision, so she left for Aspen, only Kyle followed her to try to convince her that they belonged together.

Who will Rachel Chose? Is Kyle’s love enough to bring her back to him?

Life has put a few obstacles in Rachel’s path. Little does she know what further catastrophes will alter the course of her life.

Rachel returns home to her parents’ ranch several years after her brother’s death. Worried that medical tests in the future might prove she is seriously ill, she keeps her problems to herself. She is determined to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas without the shadow of sickness overshadowing the festivities.

Kyle works for Rachel’s parents. His annoyance with the woman he thinks cares only for herself soon turns to love as they spend more and more time with each other. Rachel’s medical appointment is brought forward and she returns to Aspen for a few days. Kyle follows her. On their way back to the ranch disaster strikes and life for Rachel will never be the same again.

I enjoyed reading this book. Rachel is a strong woman who is determined to deal with her own problems. Kyle is a loner who is drawn to Rachel. The characters come across as real people who can’t help falling in love. As the book went from scene to scene, some poignant, others catastrophic in content, I was with them all the way. When they declared their love, when they supported each other through thick and thin – I was right in the scene.

The only problem I had was the story seemed rushed. I would have loved for it to have gone deeper into their relationship and have shown the petals of their love slowly unfolding. I believe Ms Stevens to be an excellent teller of tales, but I got the feeling of being pushed towards the finale as quickly as possible. So much happened and the book is only 109 pages long!

Having said this I would love to read more of Ms Stevens’ work. She seems to be able to get inside her character’s head and show us what they’re feeling as well as what they’re doing. Keep up the good work, your books are delightful to read.

Dare To Dream by Becky Wilde

Dare To Dream by Becky Wilde
Publisher: Solstice After Dark
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (95 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal play, M/F, M/M/F, Menage
Rating: 4 Cherries
Reviewed by Mazus

Devin Knight has been working as a PA for her boss’ Gareth Farrell and Brody Camp, the owner of a software company. She has been in love with the two men since practically the beginning, but knows she doesn’t have a chance of being with them as they are gay.

After an office party which Devin is drugged at by a new colleague, she reveals that she is in love with both her boss’. The two men take her home to look after her and when she is feeling well again they seduce her revealing they are not gay but bi sexual.

Will she dare to dream their relationship could be based on so much more than the physical or will she walk away?

Could anything be more complicated than two gay bosses and a secretary who has a huge crush on both of them?

Devin Knight has been crushing on her bosses for some time and is at the end of her rope with wanting them. What she doesn’t know is that her bosses are not gay but bisexual, and they want her too.

This was a fabulous read. It was quick and fun but also very sensual. I liked how the author incorporated action into her story. The characters are completely developed and real. I was completely able to get a feel for where the story was going but then was also surprised when there was an unexpected turn of events. Well done Ms. Wilde!

This story is fun, flirty and downright hot! A great quick read.