My review of Swarm Theory by E. W. Sullivan on behalf of Reader’s Choice

4****From the beginning to the end, Swarm Theory—A Murder-Mystery Thriller by E. W. Sullivan is a captivating story.

 

Dr. Thelonious Zones is a Criminal Profiler. He hears screams coming from a back alley and at a closer look, he discovers that a woman is about to be raped. He interrupts the act just as an explosion blasts, burying him under a pile of trash where he is found alive by the investigating team. He was working on trying to prove (or disprove) his father’s innocence, but his investigation is disrupted by the blast that has killed a young Arab college student, who at the time of his death was disguised as a–blond hair, blue eyes—Caucasian male.

More bombings follow and Zones’ list of suspects stretch a mile long. Everyone fits the profile—from suspected Islamic terrorists to environmentalists and animal rights activists to Jamaican drug dealers and perhaps even government officials.  The investigators begin to question the accuracy of Zones’ work every time new suspects surface. But when the path leads him to evidence connected to his mother’s murder, Zones begins to question everything he’d thought he knew.

 

From the thrilling screams in the alley to the very last paragraph, Swarm Theory by E. W. Sullivan grips the reader and never lets go.  This astonishingly imaginative story crammed with interesting characters and realistic dialogue is absolutely riveting as it takes the reader on an intriguing ride through various possibilities. I was especially fascinated with the conclusion of this story.

My review for Hellavey—book two in the New Breed series—by Lisa Vandiver on behalf of Reader’s Favorite

5***** Hellavey—book two in the New Breed series—by Lisa Vandiver is so much more than a gripping fantasy that puts the reader in the middle of a war between humans, Hellaveys, and Earth vampires.

Hellaveys, are a group of powerful creatures from another world brought to Earth by The Mist and ruled by Queen Santono and her two lovers, Prince Jeremy, and Waylona. While Detectives Alex Mosley and James Frazier try to solve a series of mysterious murders, completely unaware of a powerful enemy that is settling just outside their community, Keilwen, Prince of the Aspellian Kingdom, is also sucked into The Mist and brought to Earth, where he is reunited with his long-lost parents.

Though Hellavey by Lisa Vandiver is the second book in the series, it has enough background information that it can stand alone. Hellavey is a fantastic book complete with a made up Carasylian language. I can honestly say that I never read anything like it. Through vivid descriptions and characters with strong personalities, Vandiver delivers a terrifying cinematic tale of murder, desire, self-discipline, and sometimes, out of control circumstances. The city of Tonospon, surrounded by forest and eerie but breathtaking caves, is the perfect backdrop for the flurry of action that starts on the first page and lasts all the way through. The dynamics between these entities, each fighting for survival, hold puzzles that put everyone’s lives at risk. Vandiver’s imagination will take you far and beyond what you think you know when you first start reading this book.

 

My review for Rebecca’s Coronation by Gary Green on behalf of Reader’s Favorite

5***** Rebecca’s Coronation by Gary Green is book three in the Redemption series.

Rebecca is an orphan whose grandmother has guided her to a world of magic and adventure. Rebecca’s enemy, Pan, urges her to stop fighting him and just let him kill her. She mocks him and begins fighting him, her sword slashing through his body. But his wounds heal right before her eyes. Defeated, she feels she has no choice in the matter and makes a pact with Pan to kill her but to let her magical friends live. Just as Pan is about to kill her, she wakes up. It was just a dream.

Falsely informed that Rebecca is dead, Pan gets ready to destroy humans and their world. He summons his councils of war and instructs them each to create chaos, hurricanes, and other disasters. Meanwhile, Rebecca and her magical friends prepare for some new adventures, including meeting the Loch Ness Monster.

Cleverly done and easy to read, Rebecca’s Coronation by Gary Green, is so much more than a teen fiction. Readers of all ages will love this heartwarming, enjoyable book. The story flows well. Pulling from legends, Gary Green has created a world of characters that continue to grow, each of them enriching the story in their own way. Rebecca, in particular, is a strong character, blending magic with real life. Overall, Rebecca’s Coronation is an extremely well-thought plot with elves, gnomes, fairies, and dragons that add to the author’s wonderful writing style. He transforms a magical world into a believable, normal, everyday human life.

My review for The Elixir of Freedom by M. R. Neer on behalf of Reader’s Favorite

5***** The Elixir of Freedom by M. R. Neer is a mythological fantasy.

Ravi’s twin brother, Vik, is captured by the Mine Master’s men and taken to work in the coal mines. Ravi needs to save him, but how, without getting trapped himself in the mine? He wants to go and talk to the Master, but his father, Kristof, convinces him that’s a bad idea. He suggests seeking help from the old legends of Raam instead. As Ravi learns about the secret of the Heart of the Sun, he goes on a journey that takes him deep into the forest where he discovers a powerful potion, made of sap and sunlight. The potion is believed to be the answer to his brother’s freedom and possibly more.

The Elixir of Freedom by M. R. Neer is a captivating tale of intrigue, love, and danger in a world where fantasy is woven into reality. Gripping, clean, and character-driven with a unique premise and skilled writing, the story draws you in from the first page and takes you on a magical journey. I liked the idea of fighting the darkness with the light. Deep down we all know that is the only possible way to overcome our fears, doubts, and bigotry. I especially liked Ravi and Verda’s journey to find the light. Through their determination and powerful love, Ravi and Verda inspire us to examine our own lives and try to find our own internal light that could lead us to a better existence.

My review for Peace, Love n’ Mud by Kraig Geiger on behalf of Reader’s Favorite

4**** Peace, Love n’ Mud by Kraig Geiger tells a young boy’s compelling life story. Born in North Miami Beach, Florida, Geiger tells his and his family’s tumultuous life story in almost a straight narrative manner, from before he was born to when he wrote Peace, Love n’ Mud, weaving the past into the present. In spite his not-so-easy childhood filled with angst and negativity, he manages to find his footing when he wakes up from a dream that seemed real. Geiger is unsure when his dream, to become a concert photographer, began. Perhaps it began when he first saw impressions of Woodstock ’69 at the age of eight, perhaps at the age of fifteen when he borrowed his father’s camera to photograph his very first rock n’ roll concert. Regardless, as the story follows him to New York, during the Woodstock ’94 Music & Art Fair, and other concerts, he never gives up to pursue his life dream.

Peace, Love n’ Mud, by Kraig Geiger, is a book about love, faith, hope, and redemption. Geiger masterfully brings the reader in the midst of his family’s ups and downs while demonstrating the life of a contographer and his role in the music industry along the way. He reveals powerfully that a dream doesn’t have to stay a dream. Blaming your parents for your short-comings would never solve your problems, but with enough love and determination anyone has the power to turn their dream into reality. The story could flow a little better with the help of an editor.

Reader’s Favorite review for Things Unsaid by Diana Paul

5***** Diana Paul’s novel, Things Unsaid, examines the dynamics of the family.

 

It’s tough getting old—for you and those around you. As an elderly parent, how much do you have the right to expect from your children? As a child of an elderly parent, how far would you go for your parent? Would you do everything humanly possible to maintain your parents’ comfort and lifestyle, even if that comes at the expense of your own family? These are the questions Julia has after another argument with her husband about her parents.  Robert and Aida Whitman, Julia’s parents, live in Safe Harbor, an assisted living community that costs five thousand dollars a month. Moreover, Julia’s father has invested in penny stocks and lost almost everything he had. Julia and her two siblings, Joanne, and Andrew are now supposed to compensate and keep up the lifestyle to which their parents have become accustomed. Except that Andrew and Joanne have their own financial crisis. Julia is left to bail her parents out even as her own family’s finances are at risk, including her daughter’s college fund that is slowly draining away.

 

Things Unsaid by Diana Paul is a powerful, emotional tale that takes the reader deep into the complex dynamics of a dysfunctional family, alternating between love and obligation. Paul expertly entwines the past and present while exploring Julia’s moral impasse between love and duty for her two families—the one she was born into and the one she has created as an adult.

Reader’s Favorite review for A Vacancy at the Inn by Alice Orr

5***** A Vacancy at the Inn by Alice Orr is a heartwarming, feel-good story.

Bethany Miller grew up with her two sisters, in Riverton—a small town in upstate New York. The Miller family, just like any other large family, is filled with drama and tension and at nineteen, Bethany moves to Chicago to escape the small town and the family dynamics. Ten years later she’s back. A single mother of nine-year-old Michael, she returns to Riverton hoping to take her son away from the big city and the wrong crowd he has begun to hang out with. Now more than ever Bethany needs her extended family to help an angry Michael adjust to this new lifestyle. But first she has to face her past, and that includes strong, sizzling feelings for Luke Kalli. Back in the day, she and Luke had a romantic encounter that stayed with her, but now seeing him again, reawakens a bunch of emotions that she doesn’t need. Not when she has to focus exclusively on her son.

 

A Vacancy at the Inn by Alice Orr is a quick but satisfying read. Through a mix of vividly descriptive scenes, emotional perceptiveness, some sexual tension between Bethany Miller and Luke Kalli, and a small measure of nail-biting suspense, Alice Orr masterfully and beautifully weaves the details of why Bethany left Riverton and why she comes back. A Vacancy at the Inn is a wonderful story filled with kind-hearted characters that will have the reader stay up late, turning pages.

 

Reader’s Favorite review of Tainted Love by Erin Cawood

4 **** Tainted Love by Erin Cawood is a story that touches on domestic violence shared by the protagonist—Faith McKenzie—through letters to her younger brother. In her letters, Faith describes the slow decay of her marriage as her beloved psychiatrist, ten years her senior, husband, Calvin, goes from a charming man who sweeps her off her feet to a controlling, manipulative, and abusive husband. As it usually happens in these cases, the abused woman disregards the red flags and even finds excuses and justifications for her abuser’s escalating violence against her. Faith has no doubt in her mind that Calvin loves her—all she needs to do is figure out what it is she does wrong and try harder not to upset him. But the cycle of abuse continues as Faith tries to hide it from her family, her children and everyone around her until she is forced to face the truth—her life, and possibly her children’s lives, are in danger. Shadowed by fear and self-doubt, she finally gets the strength to leave, only partly aware of what the future holds.

Told in simple expository language, Tainted Love, is a spellbinding, raw eye-opening novel of the mind. Cawood brings to light a difficult, realistic insight into the mind and rationale of an abused woman. The story is easy to read and hard to put down in spite of the difficult topic. The rule of what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors is conveyed with accuracy in an often unlooked setting of well to do families. I had only one issue with the book—the suggestive (and sometimes quite descriptive) bedroom scenes shared with her brother felt unrealistic, and they didn’t add to the story.

 

White Ghost and the Poison Arrow Kindle Edition by Kellie Steele

White skinned, silver-haired with purple eyes, Arella is an outcast in her tribe. She learns to cope with being different and shunned because of it. But when she finds an orphaned wild kitten whose mother was poisoned, the story twists. This is a heart-warming story for young adults and fantasy lovers. Recommended.

The Second Time Around (Belanger Creek Ranch Book 1) Kindle Edition by Gloria Antypowich

I started reading this series backwards, but I was so enthralled by book 4 that I just knew I had to read the entire series.
The Second Time Around is the first book in the Belanger Creek Range series. I read this book in one sitting. It drew me right in and held me there until the wee hours.
Frank Lamonte is a vet who had a few emotional shocks, including a broken engagement, in a relatively short amount of time.
Colt Thompson is determined to keep women at arm’s length after he divorces a cheating wife.
Colt and Frank meet and sparks start flying, but Colt is convinced that Frank is just another liar just like his ex-wife. Hmm, will Colt and Frank set aside their hurt and fears and take a leap of faith, or will they run the other way? I found myself rooting for both of them.
Gloria Antypowich is a talented author. She has created characters that feel real and the reader can relate to them. I’ll buy the next book in the series now.