Fallen Grace by Katie Roman

Fallen Grace by Katie Roman
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, YA
Length: Full Length (243 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Branded a witch and exiled after a dishonorable display at the king’s annual tournament, quiet Grace Hilren is forced to uproot her life of luxury as a lord’s daughter and move to the slums of the port city, Glenbard. But Grace carries a secret. Though trained to be a fine lady, she also learned to handle a sword and has made it her mission to eradicate evil and injustice where she finds it. Even in exile, Grace continues her work under the given name of Death Dealer. Her nightly deeds bring her to the notice of the self-proclaimed King of Thieves, Marcus. When the king’s power is threatened by a rival named Mac, the Death Dealer unwittingly becomes a pawn in the struggle between thieves for control of the lower city. The game becomes dangerous as Grace realizes she may not be able to best this usurper.

A foolish mistake costs Grace everything.
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Grace is a beautiful young woman, but she chafes at the role women are expected to play in her world. Even though Grace conforms outwardly to most of society’s expectations, she relishes slipping into the role of the Death Dealer at night. Grace balances the demands of her daily and nightly activities very well. Unfortunately, a lapse in judgment has consequences that will change her life forever. Can Grace adapt to her new lot in life, or will she meet an ugly fate on the streets of Glenbard?

Grace is certainly an interesting heroine. She is smart, courageous, and fiercely determined to accomplish any task she sets her mind to. Despite her outward bravado, Grace is also a little naïve concerning love, life, and death. I don’t view her naivety as a flaw, rather it softens her personality a little and makes her a much more believable character given her age and upbringing.

I also really like Grace’s sense of ethics. Her nightly escapades as the Death Dealer often put her in the position of having to make some difficult choices. She is even forced to take a life. Even though she kills a man while saving the lives of others, the death weighs heavily on Grace. I think this is very realistic. Too often I’ve read books that treat death in a cavalier manner. I’m pleased that Ms. Roman treats death with the seriousness it deserves.

The ending of Fallen Grace is certainly satisfying, but leaves plenty of wiggle room for future stories. I’m very curious about what happens to Grace next. Does she continue to live in Glenbard? Is she ever accepted back into the ranks of the nobles? Will her budding relationship with Jack blossom into true love? I certainly hope Ms. Roman has a sequel planned to satisfy my curiosity.

Reading Fallen Grace was a pleasure. Grace is a wonderful, realistic character, and I thoroughly enjoyed tagging along on her adventures. Anyone looking for a fantasy laced with action and a touch of romance would do well to pick up a copy of Fallen Grace today.

Riders in the Sunlight by Kent S. Brown

Riders in the Sunlight by Kent S. Brown
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (178 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

When the door was opened, Coach looked into the bloodshot eyes of a scruffy face he remembered from years ago, Isaac Marlow.

“Justice is justice , depending on who’s dishing it out,” Isaac said, “You dished it out your way ten years ago. Now, I’m ready to serve some justice of my own. Different ways of hurting a man. Maybe through others, like his woman-folk, or children-folk.”

The reaction was sudden and unexpected; Coach brought his knee up into Isaac’s groin like a catapult.

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Mr. Brown writes a pretty good western, showing how hard it is to survive and build a home in the wild lands. The biggest problem the Dodge family is this gang bent on revenge. They finally got out of jail and want Coach dead, just like their brother he killed.

The characters are bigger than life and have flaws just like all people do. One daughter has married a boy from back east and Moses is having a time trying to fit in. He works hard but he can’t do what those born to a ranch life can. It’s even worse when he has some hidden problems he can’t talk about.

The author puts this family through a trial by fire. First their ranch and outbuildings all burn down from a grass fire that has been set and then the gang starts tormenting them. It comes down to final showdown.

The author examines the philosophy of western life. Coach is ready to kill them to save his family. Moses would rather not kill. Coach’s son is like his father. It was like watching two cultures clash and I like how he pointed that out.

If you like westerns, you’ll like this story. Life is raw here, people fight and die to survive, and those still standing move on. There’s no sugar and sweetness here. Western life was a hard life and you’ll see that in this story. The author talks about working on a dairy farm and working with horses. That knowledge bleeds over into the book and makes it more interesting. Give it a try.

Sandy Creek by Trina M. Ward

Sandy Creek by Trina M. Ward
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Horror, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (242 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Something evil dwells in and around Sandy Creek. There have been numerous sightings of a Creature that remains a mystery in the unsuspecting town located along the Gulf Coast. Murders, attacks as well as odd mishaps all take place within the Sandy Creek area. Preston, his girlfriend Shayne, his best friend Aaron and Kimberly will encounter something beyond their wildest imaginations. Nothing could ever prepare them for what they find. The answer is within the truth, but the truth may not exactly set them free.

Few things are stronger than the bond between siblings. Little does Preston know just how far his love for his sister is about to take him, though.

The author’s vivid descriptions of the setting made me feel as if I were wandering around Sandy Creek alongside Preston and his companions as they attempt to figure out what really happened to his sister. Every sense other than taste is invoked as what should be a peaceful body of water gradually reveals its dark underbelly. My favourite scenes involve the protagonist’s exploration of this area due to how easy it is to mentally picture exactly what he is experiencing.
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I got to know Preston very well during the course of his tale, but it was harder to figure out the personalities of the people around him. Each one is given a brief introduction, but had their names not been included in later scenes it would have been difficult for me to know who was speaking based on what they said or how they react to everything that happens to them. Preston has a well-defined personality that affects every decision he makes. The secondary characters do not seem to share this same advantage.

As soon as the mystery presents itself in the first chapter I couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. The author’s use of a well-paced plot as well as her decision to begin a little later in the timeline than I was expecting kept me on my toes.While the cast of characters is about the size I would expect for a novel this length, I was also surprised by how quickly many of them are introduced in the first few chapters.

There is also a lot of telling instead of showing in this book. Preston’s reaction to his sister’s disappearance felt genuine to this reader, but many other emotions, character traits, and clues about what is really happening are released in a sentence or two instead of being allowed to gradually seep through body language or dialogue.

The ending redeemed many of my concerns about earlier chapters. It wasn’t something I saw coming until right before it happens and I was impressed that the author was able to keep me guessing for well over 200 pages. If this is any indication of Ms. Ward’s writing ability, I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

Sandy Creek is a solid mystery that I would recommend to anyone in the mood for a challenge.

Blue 52 by Elaine Cantrell

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Blue 52 by Elaine Cantrell
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Paranormal (Time Travel), Science Fiction (Futuristic)
Length: Full (368 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

“First Lady Kills President Lovinggood”
December 29, 2018

Thirty years later Hank Lovinggood embarks on a quest to prove his mother’s innocence and punish the killers who took his family from him. Together Hank and lovely physicist Kathryn Sinclair confront an implacable, twisted, merciless enemy who’ll do whatever it takes to hide the truth forever.

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If you like a good time travel story (with a twist … since none of the times in this story are contemporary — the earliest was 2018) and some sweet romance, then Blue 52 might be a good choice for you.

I enjoyed this book, primarily for the characters. While Hank and Kathryn are the main characters, Ms. Cantrell populates the book with plenty of colorful, three dimensional secondary characters. Hank’s grandfather is great, though his grandmother annoyed me pretty consistently. I loved his father, when we finally get to meet him. Definitely presidential material!

The plot is relatively complex and although even 2048 feels pretty similar to current day, there are enough things put in that the reader is made aware that things aren’t contemporary, from longer life spans to … well… time travel.

The author’s way with words is great, and it really kept me turning pages. She’s not heavy handed with description, but I could always picture where I was. The romance is sweet, and while the couple do consummate their relationship, it’s off the page.

I thought the ending was handled very well, and I was pleased at how the author handled the effects of time travel. Yes, things were changed in the past, so the future was also changed, but it all made good sense to me.

For an enjoyable read with a relatively plausible plot (as long as you can believe time travel is possible), and a sweet and touching romance, I recommend Blue 52. I enjoyed it very much and will be on the lookout for more from this author.

Up on the Roof and Other Short Stories by Judy Ann Davis

Up on the Roof and Other Short Stories by Judy Ann Davis
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Holiday
Length: Full Length (203 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Up on the Roof and Other Short Stories” is a unique collection of nineteen humorous and serious short stories that explores the lives and relationships of the young and old.

A grizzled, old farmer, Pop, climbs up on his farmhouse roof to meditate, check his chimney and antenna, and ends up talking to God on his portable phone in “Up on the Roof”.

In “Bald Revelations,” Maureen is convinced her husband of twenty years is planning to leave her when he purchases ten new pairs of black socks and starts singing Beach Boy songs.

Greta Nielsen of Inuit heritage is searching for an amulet to remind herself of home, but her money-conscious boyfriend keeps thwarting her efforts in “The Amulet”.
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Storyteller Judy Ann Davis weaves her award-winning tales to make her readers laugh, maybe cry, but always able to relate to the unique characters and the dilemmas they encounter.

There’s more to thriving in a small town than might first meet the eye.

Just when I thought I knew where Ms. Davis is headed with certain plots she steers it into entirely new directions. The appeal of this book lays in her ability to transform even the most ordinary experience into something special.

“Up On the Roof” is a good introduction to this collection. David’s father, Henry, keeps climbing onto the roof in order to have conversations with God. The problem is that Henry isn’t as young as he used to be, and David and the rest of the family are genuinely concerned about the patriarch’s safety during these conversations. The characterization in this tale is wonderful, especially when it comes to how the younger family members relate to one another as they attempt to figure out how to get Henry back on solid land.While I found the conclusion a little hard to believe due to how quickly it came together and how certain characters reacted to it, the final scene did provide a sense of closure for questions that were asked earlier on.

There were some stories that I had trouble understanding. “The Amulet” begins with a young woman on a road trip with her boyfriend that makes a stopover at a flea market. I liked Greta’s flashbacks to her childhood, but I had trouble connecting those experiences to her current life. She seems conflicted about the parts of her heritage that she wants to hold onto, and I never knew how her mind would change on the topic from one scene to the next. The premise was intriguing, but the ending never tied up all of the loose ends from earlier on in the plot. This pattern was repeated in several other tales and it is the reason why I gave this anthology a 3 star rating.

In “Holiday Bonding” Raymond Harper and his wife Celeste are celebrating their first Christmas with their four young adult children. Raymond wants to recapture the magic and beloved traditions of previous holidays, but coordinating the schedules of so many adults is difficult. It isn’t easy for anyone to readjust interpersonal boundaries as children become adults, and Ms. Davis captures the growing pains of this experience quite well. I especially enjoyed the conversations between Raymond and Celeste in the first scene because of how much it reveals about their relationship now that they are empty nesters.

Up on the Roof and Other Short Stories is a solid collection of contemporary and historical mainstream fiction. It’s a good choice for anyone who likes reading about life in small, rural communities as Ms. Davis’ snapshots of their subcultures are quite well done.

The Only One by Karen Wiesner

The Only One by Karen Wiesner
Book 5 Cowboy Fever Series
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (78 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

Return to cowboy country in Fever, Texas, where the heat isn’t the only thing causing a fever! See if you can find the heirloom wedding band!

More than five years ago, Ken Abrams, Triple Aces Ranch co-owner, and his wife Karla were madly in love and expecting their first child. Tragedy took that unborn daughter from them and drove them into opposite corners.
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Seeing how unaffected Ken seemed by the loss of their child shook Karla’s whole world. He didn’t want to talk; didn’t even appear to grieve. The very next morning, he was back out on his horse, doing ranch work, and she couldn’t forgive him his ease in coping—especially when his work seemed to take over his entire life so she rarely saw him anymore. Devastated, Karla left him. Ken is the only man she’s ever loved, and, after five years apart, she knows she has to make a decision: wash her hands of their marriage, or confront him about the loss of their unborn daughter.

Ken never understood why Karla left him, and, the few times he’s contacted her, she’s been as cold and volatile as a rattlesnake. He can only believe she also blames him for the death of their unborn child. He allows her the silent separation, unwilling to risk her asking him for a divorce. The death of his daughter tore him to pieces. Losing Karla will finish him for sure.

When Ken shows up with her four brothers at the exotic dance club Karla’s been working as a waitress to make ends meet, she sees that he hasn’t changed at all—and she tells him she wants a divorce ASAP. Can Ken prove the loss of their child all but destroyed him and she’s still the only one for him?

The Only One dives into the story quickly and introduces us to Ken who has been ‘kidnapped’ by his wife’s brothers. Ken comes across as a real character, feeling the pain of separation, perhaps pending divorce. We feel more of his pain when he sees his wife working as a waitress in what appears to a sleazy bar. We’re also told that they lost a baby and as the story unfolds, begin to learn what happened from Karla’s viewpoint too.

I haven’t read any of the other books in the series so I’m not sure if these characters have been introduced before but I felt what could have been a very emotional story as they dealt with their pain, became rushed, and told rather than shown. I think had this been a longer story and more pages devoted to the theme of loss and recovery, it would have been a wonderful read.

Apart from that, the dialogue is natural sounding and the setting perfect. And if you’re looking for a quick read about a hot cowboy this might be one for you.

The Black Knight: Chronicles of the Immortal Warrior by Alda Yuan

The Black Knight: Chronicles of the Immortal Warrior by Alda Yuan
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (391 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Kyra returns to her hometown in Albion three hundred years after being turned into an immortal to find it burned to the ground by the Black Knight. So Kyra sets off to find out more about this powerful thief lord who rose to power amidst the breakdown of central authority following the death of the last king. She meets and joins up with a band of adventurers including a noble Arthur, who turns out to be the rightful heir of the dead king. After convincing Arthur he is the true king, Merlin the mage accompanies them to see the Lords of the Land who meet to decide the fate of the country. Meanwhile, the Black Knight uses this opportunity to attack. All of the companions must use their skills to defend the land but the Black Knight may not be who he appears to be.

There are many stories written about historical and mythological characters, and King Arthur and Merlin are frequently part of such stories. As a fan of all things Arthurian, I have read many of these, but rarely have I enjoyed one as much as I enjoyed The Black Knight. Alda Yuan has centered her story around Kyra, the Immortal Warrior, who returns to Albion after a three hundred year absence, only to discover that her home town has been burned to the ground by the Black Knight. She meets a young Arthur just as he is setting out to select companions and right the injustices which are rampant in Albion because the throne has remained empty since the last king’s death.
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Yuan has focused her story on Arthur’s early career as he finds his companions and realizes that he is the dead king’s heir. But Kyra is the main character, not Arthur, which works very powerfully to keep the story from being trapped in the Arthurian legend. And as Kyra gets to know Arthur and his companions, she tells them stories, setting the record straight, about dragons and giants and even the legendary Grendel. These stories add real depth to Kyra’s character and also provide a greater scope to the novel.

The story is fresh and original, giving life to some of the legends surrounding Arthur without trampling them or twisting them out of recognition. The characters are well-developed and fully realized. I liked the way Yuan treated the non-human characters, such as Pete, a fey, and Meredyd, the dragon. She also has a number of very strong female characters taking on non-traditional roles.

The plot is fast moving and exciting, providing a number of unexpected twists and turns in the action. The settings are described in great detail, so that I really felt as if I were right there in the thick of things with Kyra and her friends. I started reading this book right after lunch and I never stopped until I reached the end, much to the dismay of my fur friends. I just couldn’t put it down.

Readers of fantasy, especially historical fantasy, are sure to find The Black Knight to be a very enjoyable and surprising book. I hope that there are many more adventures for Kyra, as I certainly look forward to reading them.

The Empty Chair by James Davis

The Empty Chair by James Davis
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (295 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

The Empty Chair is a story of friendship shared by four men and their journey of faith. The death of his first girlfriend makes Jake angry toward God. His disbelief further wells in his heart with the merciless killings he has witnessed in several of his Marine missions. An incident in Nigeria changes his idea of God when a chaplain risks his own life to save him. Jake decides to pursue Chaplaincy in Wake Forest, NC thinking he has a debt to pay. His journey takes a twist when he finds himself in Pakistan after finding that his friend Cameron and his wife Lilly, who are on mission in India, are in danger; Jake does his best to save them, even if it means giving up his own life.

Their lives take some twists and turns and the relationships between the four are developed, including exciting and dramatic events that are based on true stories. Jake’s journey for redemption takes him on an emotional ride and leads him to love and hope that he never expected to find.

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James Davis has written a very compelling story with interesting, well-developed characters. I do not normally read inspirational books, but this one did capture my interest because of the dynamics between the characters. The four men, as well as several other characters in the story, arrive in Wake Forest, NC bearing the burdens of troubled pasts. They find strength from each other as well as many members from the area churches.

The plot is filled with action, which at times is very intense. The descriptions of the various settings in the story are vivid, drawing me right into the battle or into the wonders of a garden. Davis does jump back and forth in time which I found a bit disconcerting. The book begins with a prologue describing an attack on an orphanage run by missionaries, but the story then flips back several years. We don’t find out how the attack ended until the conclusion of the book. Everything in between leads up to the conclusion of the attack, and this technique does work well, over all, but it took awhile for me to connect with the flow.

The story is well-written and it is certainly inspiring no matter what one’s religious views may be. Those who enjoy Christian fiction will most assuredly enjoy this very moving account of the lives of these four men and those around them. It will also be enjoyed by any who believe that all lives are interconnected even if we differ about how those connections are made.

The Alicorn by Caroline Misner

The Alicorn by Caroline Misner
The Daughters of the Eldox, Book I
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (225 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Vala Hide is an unassuming farmer’s daughter living in the Land of Nomar when a fire razes her homestead. The only thing Vala saves from the devastation is the alicorn, a gift on the day of her birth from the unicorn Sagene. She quickly learns that she is the Chosen One, destined to be the Maiden of Eldox.

The malevolent Pressor Garr runs the cult of the Divine Almighty with the blessing of the weak-willed Prince Tito. Under his fanaticism, the Land of Nomar is in danger of slipping into an age of superstition and hysteria. He realizes the alicorn could usurp his hold on the land, and he will do anything to stop Vala.

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Vala Hide helps her injured father after their village is destroyed by arson. They struggle to the nearest village with only the clothes on their backs and the alicorn, a gift given to Vala on the day she was born. They are helped by the gypsies, and while they begin their escape from the village and the evil Pressor Garr, Vala learns that she is the Chosen One, destined to be the Maiden of Eldox. Vala and her father, Castor, must escape to the valley of the unicorns where Vala will learn what it means to be the Chosen One.

Caroline Misner has written a truly remarkable coming of age story. The characters are well-developed and believable. The bond between Castor and Vala is a very strong, loving bond forged over the years as Castor raised Vala by himself. His wife, Vala’s mother, died giving birth to her and he never told her of the remarkable appearance of a unicorn just after her birth. Now, as a young woman, Vala learns of her destiny. All she wants to be is a simple farmer’s daughter, but that is not to be. I really liked both Vala and Castor and their adventures are both exciting and terrifying.

Misner has a real gift for description and as she moves her characters from the village through a forest and bog and into the mountains, I could smell, see, and feel the surroundings. The action is fast-paced and Pressor Garr and his soldiers are never far behind. Vala has to find the path guided only by the alicorn, and Castor’s roll is to protect her, even though he has no training in swordsmanship. The quest for the unicorns is an arduous one, and I was right there with them the entire way.

Lovers of fantasy are sure to enjoy this exciting story which, according to the title, is the first in a new series. I read the book in one sitting, not wanting to put it down, and I really hope that the next book in the series will be published soon.

Mitchell’s Run by Amy Gallow

Mitchell’s Run by Amy Gallow
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (220 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed By Daisy

Cynthia Sheldon is a modern young woman. She does not believe in ghosts. When Andrew Mitchell rescues her from a blizzard and shelters her in his mine, she knows there has to be a logical explanation. She finds it in Drew Mitchell, the current owner of Mitchell’s Run. Proving that she wasn’t fooled by any ghostly masquerade seemed quite simple in the beginning. Then her emotions got in the way…

This book demands time to decipher and dwell on its questions, both during and after reading, but the protagonist Cynthia is even more confused than we are. Cynthia has to discern whether Drew and Andrew are the same man, an elaborate hoax thought up for gold, or different men, which would mean she has walked into a ghost story.

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Andrew/Drew and Cynthia are well thought out with a witty repartee continuing between them throughout the novel. They fight to get the advantage of the other and understand them enough they are not five steps behind. Chess has been provided by Gallow as a good metaphor for this process.

These characters never become dull or predictable as the sheer force of their personalities keeps them on the road to the unique and unexpected. There were many times I had to change my mind over Andrew/Drew and his intentions and Cynthia had to change hers along with me. It is a debate of the mind from start to finish.

In addition, Ms. Gallow provides language like ‘awareness advanced and retreated like gentle waves on a beach’ which sets the scene but also feels classic. Much like a later description of Drew’s horse race, a historical scene is paired with a stark, atmospheric visual which draws the reader into the story and binds us with Cynthia and her questions.

Mitchell’s Run is a story I will not forget any time soon. Its visuals and characters whisper on my periphery and the love story seems to endure across the centuries. This is not a novel which stops with the last line. It’s one that continues beyond the horizon and the people of its making.