First a quick explanation!
Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.
In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I have been scrunching some of my (overdue) reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.
That’s the plan anyway; and so far, so good…!
Title: Come Join the Murder
Author: Holly Rae Garcia
Publisher: Dark Ink
Blurb: Rebecca Crow’s four-year-old son is dead, and her husband is missing. Divers find her husband Jon’s car at the bottom of the canal with their son Oliver’s small lifeless body inside. The police have no suspects and nothing to go on but a passing mention of a man driving a van. Guilt and grief cloud Rebecca’s thoughts as she stumbles towards her only mission: Revenge. James Porter knows exactly what happened to them, but he’ll do anything to keep it a secret. James didn’t plan to kill Jon and Oliver Crow, but he’s not too broken up about it, either. There are more important things for him to worry about; he needs money, and his increasing appetite for murder is catching the attention of a nosy detective.
Review: This story is brutally dark, especially if you are reading it as a mother with a similar-aged child to Rebecca’s Oliver.
The book begins with a brutal and senseless murder, then gives us the story from the POV of the murderers alternating with Rebecca’s narrative as she finds out about her loss, grieves, then spirals into obsessive revenge. It is terrifying just how quickly and plausibly she shifts from a normal woman grieving the loss of her family to a deranged vigilante murderer.
Holly Rae Garcia uses an incredibly clever hook to explore Rebecca’s downfall; when she identifies her suspect we see the murder replayed as Rebecca imagines it might have happened. This felt like such a fresh approach and I was totally drawn in by it.
That same clever hook made this story almost unbearable for me to read, as I experienced the traumatic death of a 4 year old over and over again. In that respect, the book is mercifully short, but it does also feature animal abuse and animal murder, as well as all the human murder, so there are a lot of triggers packed into quite a small space! The ending felt like a relief all round, with one last round of shocking misery before the fade to black.
This is a very, very dark book, with no redeeming characters or lighter moments; ideal for a plunge into the dark side and a wallow in psychological horror. Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Purchase Link: Come Join the Murder on Amazon
Title: The Colour of Mermaids
Author: Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Blurb: In a world of childhood secrets and tabloid scandals, is falling for the bad boy of British art as risky as it is raunchy?
When artist Eva Catesby is invited to an exhibition in honour of art world enfant terrible Daniel Scott, she’s expected to follow the crowd and sing his praises. Instead she tells him what she really thinks and sparks fly. As they plunge headlong into a wild affair, Eva becomes the target of unwanted attention from an unseen enemy.
Daniel Scott is famous for his paintings. Filled with darkness and tormented imagery, his canvases are as mysterious as his background. Until he meets Eva, Daniel is a stranger to criticism and doesn’t know what it means to fall in love.
Can Eva help Daniel overcome his childhood demons or will a fatal secret from the past destroy their future?
Review: This is a standalone MF romance from the authors that brought us the Captivating Captains MM romance series. Please don’t expect actual mermaids here… that stunning cover is symbolic and artistic, rather than actual!
Far from the gentle punnery of their other works, this book handles darker and more serious issues, including addiction, child abuse, incest, rape and stalking. As a result, this turned out to be as much of a psychological thriller as it is a romance.
Full of deeply damaged characters, the emotional side of the romance felt at risk of becoming a little co-dependent at times, but the chemistry between Eva and Daniel sparked on the page and the sex scenes were the right mixture of steamy, sexy and occasionally sweetly romantic.
This book is proof, if proof were needed, that this talented writing duo can handle the dark side of romance as easily as the lighter side.
Purchase Link: The Colour of Mermaids on Amazon
Title: Let’s All Get in the Casserole Dish
Author: Les Birdwhistle
Publisher: Independently published
Blurb: A strange and beautifully illustrated tale involving aliens travelling to Earth in a casserole dish, hairstyle awards and more nonsense. There are not many stories like this available and it is appealing to both children and adults. This is the start of a new genre in fantasy writing.
Review: Hands down the oddest book I’ve ever read!
This is a fantasy picture book, designed to appeal to all ages, and it achieves that goal with bright pictures, surreal characters and an utterly nonsensical plot. I was reminded a lot of the Monty Python illustrated interludes while reading it, and found myself charmed by its complete absurdity, so couldn’t wait to see what Minishine (8) and Babybows (5) made of it.
Minishine’s thoughts: It was funny and quite silly! I like the trip to Earth – the galaxy looks so pretty! My favourite character is the Queen because she likes flowers, like me, and she looks pretty and fashionable. But they’re not very good at armchair-hiding, are they?
Babybows’ thoughts: I like the funny, weird creatures and the mashed potato planet, but was it mouldy? Because it looked all green? My favourites are the King and Mr Smallbush, because Mr Smallbush is very very clever (debatable!) and I am very, very clever too, and the King just has a head on legs!
If you think the above comments sound weird, like we all shared a mass hallucination or fever-dream, then I feel we have given you an accurate taste of what to expect.
I spent the whole time reading the book saying ‘WTF’ and various child-friendly equivalents, but then read it again and again and have to admit that there is nothing to dislike at all. I’m not sure I am the book’s intended audience, but I can’t for the life of me think who is… and yet I still recommend it anyway. In fact, I have to give it 5*, as the whole family roars hysterically every time we open it.
Maybe the whole book is an experiment in esoteric mind magic…?!
Purchase Link: Let’s All Get in the Casserole Dish on Amazon
Title: Space Police Files
Author: Jay Sandlin
Publisher: Independently published
Blurb: Uncensored, irreverent, and unredacted: the case files of the SPACE POLICE.
What sorcery are these blurbs that they would make you buy my adult oriented sci-fi anthology Space Police Files, five eyewitness accounts of crime in the effed up sectors of the Milky Way. From exploding cloud virgins, rescuing bad kitties, and serial killer shape shifters, it’s just another shift for the space police.
Five short stories set in an interconnected galaxy with more twists and turns than the Kessel run and bigger shocks than the lightning storm that ate George Kirk.
The Case of the Exploding Vapor Virgin: A hostage negotiator’s first day on the job turns explosive when a cloud-like Kleudian takes out his anger at the galaxy on unsuspecting customers at the Centauri Credit Union.
The Case of the Dead Beat Cadet: A young space cadet gets more than he bargained for when he’s assigned to shadow a veteran on the largest space station in the quadrant. With a thriving drug trade running amuck on the station, will he rise to new heights or end up discarded feline vomit?
The Case of the Golem Gopher: A tattoo artist in the Chicago Undercity, Pipani Shariff had nothing to look forward to besides a short life trading services for food until a wealthy Uppercity family selects her for surrogacy. Pippany, however, soon discovers even the flying paradise has its demons.
The Case of the Duplicate Policy: Office Randy Goldman takes out extra insurance of the genetic variety- cloning himself to help with his caseload. Everything seems great, until his friends and family decide they prefer the clone to the original.
The Case of the Samhain Slasher: It’s All Hallow’s Eve on the darkest planet in the Milky Way with a shapeshifting killer on the loose. Detective Linh must use her empathic abilities to root out the killer before sunrise or else endless war stretches across the galaxy.
Review: Space Police Files is what you get if you cross hard-boiled crime with sci-fi in a short story format.
The collection contains five stories about dirty cops and politicians, renegades and outlaws, shapeshifters, golems and aliens. Each story features a separate, individual case from the fictional ‘files’, but by the end you realise that there are subtle links between them all… enter Otto and co!
These stories are very well-written, packed with action and twists, humour and pathos and the worldbuilding is great.
I was left wanting more, and hope that Jay Sandlin releases more of these shorts, or a full series of novels focused on the Space Police and their more unusual cases.
Purchase Link: Space Police Files on Amazon
Title: Tying the Leaves
Author: June Toher
Publisher: Toher’s Tales
Blurb: Jamie, a timid Virginia boy, and his three friends time travel seventy years into the future where they are horrified at a barren Earth devastated by climate change and dirty energy pollution. They return to the present and launch an international kids’ crusade to save the planet from the same toxic gases that are threatening the life of Jamie’s little sister.
Insisting that the U. S. lead the world in changing the future, Jamie and his close pals team up with a maverick U.S. senator on a controversial environmental bill, fight the fossil fuel industry, and counter Washington backroom politics. But things are often not how they seem, and what the youths experience shocks them all.
This eco-fiction tale tracks an improbable activist as he and his millions of global followers race against time to beat the forces starting to imperil the human race. This is also a story about the power of sibling love and the discovery of a power much greater than that.
Review: This eco-story, aimed at middle-grade children is quite a slow-starter. The reader really gets to know all about Jamie’s life, his friendships, his school projects and his worries – mainly about his younger sister’s lung problems.
After a lot of backstory and scene setting, the story takes off with sparkles and time travel, and the focus turns to rallying the youth of today to save the planet for tomorrow. The messages about ecology and the environment, and the religious/spiritual themes, are clear and direct, and very strongly conveyed. The author’s passion and enthusiasm for improving our care for the environment clearly shines through.
While older teens or adults may find the tone and content a little dictatorial and heavy-handed, I felt it was pitched well for educating middle-grade and younger teen readers about these important issues – not just the environmental ones, but also positive visualisation techniques, meditation and the US political process – with characters that they can both relate to and find admirable.
Purchase Link: Tying the Leaves on Amazon
From dark to light, serious to silly and back again with this batch!
I hope something catches your interest, and remember, if you enjoy a book please leave a review on your platforms of choice – it is so important, especially for indie authors who are having to take time from writing the books we love in order to get word out there about the ones they’ve already written.
Happy reading and keep shining! 🙂