Categories
HM On Writing

My First Reviews 2021

SS Bazinet, Dying Takes it out of You

A deadly Virus

A deathly disease that turns its victims into monsters. Two brothers, single-cell twins that are in a way mirror images of one another. One is a scientist the other an artist. Their names are aptly chosen, Milton and Dory, which name gave me associations to Gustave Doré, the artist that brought Milton’s Paradise Lost to life.

Dory has contracted the illness that turns people into a mixture of vampire and rabies victims. Milton fights to find a cure. Their history is fraught with conflict, not the usual sibling rivalry, but a conflict between Dory and their father, who saw the younger twin (Dory) as a head case. Add to the mixture a mysterious character, Thomas, who might be an angel. That was my immediate reaction.

This triad of archetypes combines in a mind-reading feat that takes the reader through lucid dreams and swivelling nightmares, in a setting that shows us our deepest fears and highest hopes. This is dystopian fantasy on a high level, as one would expect from SS Bazinet. Seen through the times of the Coronavirus, there is something visionary about the scenario – the deathly virus and the insanity that grabs people in a frenzy when confronted with a plague. Bazinet has created a dance macabre – a memento mori – for her readers.

Two Brothers, Dory, and Milton

John Milton Paradise lost – of Satan, and the host of fallen angels warring the righteous angels, of Adam and Eve.

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SL Baron, Blood Ties

Vampires Mourn

Militancy is at the core of this daunting Vampire Tale that follows Vanilla Blood. SL Baron keeps up the hedonistic aspect of vampirism, notably the various blood tastes, but the odds are harder. Bridget, an elder vampire must deal with the loss of her beloved Sébastien who gets shot in a terrorist attack in Paris.

As a result, the united vampires stand up together to fight against terrorism. All of them come together and, although they must face old foes, they join their efforts to prevent further unnecessary and tragic deaths.

We meet The Children of the Night, Livia, her lover Lucian, and her daughter Cassie Lynn in this stirring novel that tackles a difficult reality that concerns every human being. It is impressive that SL Baron manages to keep her writing light and entertaining without losing sight of the hard facts of modern life.  

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Uvi Poznansky, Apart from War

Three in One

The Music of Us/Dancing with Air/Marriage before Death

It wasn’t difficult to step into the third part of Still Life with Memories – in fact – it didn’t occur to me that this wasn’t the first book of a series. Apart from War can be read as a coherent trilogy. That speaks loudly about Uvi Poznansky’s writing acumen.

The love story between the two protagonists, Lenny and Natasha is heart-breaking and profound, although Natasha’s proverbial Jewish Mama brings in comic relief and sometimes some darker notes.

What stroke me most in these books – apart from the flowing prose and immaculate historical research were the strange music choices. I asked myself if they might be a symbol of the innate trouble in the relationship between Natasha and Lenny? Could it be a symbol of Natasha’s oncoming Alzheimer’s? Or was it a matter of little musical knowledge?  One thing is clear, all or several song lyrics have been changed. Sometimes the change is subtle, like in The White Cliffs of Dover. In others, it is blatant, like changing the nightingale in Berkeley Square from singing to silence. In another song, what sprang to mind was that Vera Lynn never doubted that we’d meet again. I could go on, Night and Day, changed to Dark and Light. So, in Make it one for my Baby and One more for the Road, the baby suddenly became heartbreak and the long road – love. That is not all.

In Natasha’s first concert appearance in these books, she is part of a camp event – a musical entertainment for the troupes. She is scheduled to play Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto – without an orchestra? Wisely, she changes her mind and plays God Bless America. By the way, that is a major shift. Her second concert, which takes place in Carnegie Hall is dedicated to Mozart’s Requiem. I can understand the symbolic value of using a requiem (which involves an orchestra, a choir, and four soloists) as Natasha’s program. She certainly explains that her father transcribed it for four-hand piano. While there is a four-hand transcription by Carl Czerny, I find it hard to imagine that feat boiled down to two hands – without losing some substance. Why doesn’t Natasha play anything that is written for piano? In my mind, it must be a choice, deliberately made. Would I have done this? Perhaps – and then again perhaps not.

All that aside, Apart from War presented an absorbing world to dive into for any thoughtful reader.

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Susan Finlay The Secret Town (Project Chameleon)

Chilling Instalment in Project Chameleon

Claire and Steve have barely made it out of France after the kidnapping of their youngest child. They are in Holland – and have no idea where to go next. A friend seems to have the solution: a secret town in the US.

At first, everything seems idyllic, but impressions can deceive. After a few weeks, the nightmare starts again. The family pulls together and finds friends in unexpected places.

Ms Finlay works her suspense and makes the reader doubt everybody. Her writing flows, and the characters are lifelike – showing their fear and doubt and – eventually – disgust with their situation. Through twists and turns, Ms Finlay pulls her readers into the story and make them share the angst of her protagonists. In this part of Project Chameleon, we are on the edge between a cosy mystery and a thriller. Any fan of mysteries will enjoy The Secret Town.

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Penny Hampson, An Officer’s Vow

Regency Drama with a Plucky Heroine

Lottie flees her obnoxious cousin. Nate Crawford is on his way home after being wounded in battle. Lottie is on the run, from an unwanted suitor. Nate believes that his life is at an end because of his crippling injury. They meet – and their tale begins.

In this regency drama, Ms Hampson pulls all stops and throws in Lottie’s friend Harriet Spencer, French spies, a duke, his friend and secretary, the leader of a bawdy house, as well as various people serving the main characters as maids, innkeepers etc.

An Officer’s Vow throws a different light on the regency period than the books by Jane Austen that concentrate on character development. Here the reader will find tumult and erotic entanglements, all presented in pleasant prose that is easily read. All in all, this escapist confection that is ripe with romance and imbroglios will delight lovers of Regency romance.

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Eva Pasco, Underlying Notes

Perfume and Music Play on All Your Senses

Landing inside Carla Matteo’s head as she is in the throes of night sweats, the reader immediately enters the action in Underlying Notes. What kind of life is it? On the surface, it’s a simple life. Carla is married to Joe and has been his true helpmate for years. Underneath there are all sorts of disturbing factors, which is mostly the case for married people. Is it fair to speak of a midlife crisis? Perhaps even mention a marital crisis?

Joe may or may not have extramarital activities, and Carla has made career choices that she may or may not regret. Add to that a cast of Italian family members – possible mob connections – former and current friends, Italian food, and music, spanning from the 1812 Overture, over The Hollies and The Beetles, to Andrea Bocelli and Italian schmalz. In this way, Ms Pasco confronts her readers with a many-faceted, fragrance rich environment.

On top of it all, resides Carla’s love for perfume. It is her refuge and passion, as well as something she has investigated for years, notably on a website for fragrance aficionados. Thus, a new career opportunity surfaces but dwindles as fast, due to a stuck Amtrak train and a long taxi ride.

Below and above there is food, fragrance, unbridled marital lovemaking, and music to heighten the senses. In Ms Pasco’s flowing prose, and through her insight into human nature, this becomes a mesmerizing tale about humanity.

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Debi Ennis Binder, Dragon Rings

Epic Saga Taking Place in the Fantasy Realm Nesht

The kingdom of Nesht is ripe for attack. Blue humans of a vile disposition have subdued dragons and enticed slavering beasts to assist their assault. In Nesht, the attack comes unexpectedly. Will the king and his retainers, including high witches and warlords succeed in defending the vulnerable kingdom?

Ms Binder has chosen to write her saga in third person omniscient and that gives her the option of moving between the character viewpoint at will. It fits the genre; Binder has a tale to tell. It is dramatic and there are plenty of twists to keep the readers’ interest.

My only objection to her writing style is the use of the word ‘f**king’, which seems an uneasy fit. This word only appears in speeches when the characters are in heightened emotional situations. My problem with the usage is that it doesn’t work. Why? It sticks out like a sore thumb because the dialogue is otherwise polished. Also, it seems unlikely that the characters using this word wouldn’t as they have an inherent connection to their sexuality. In my opinion, it might have worked better either to leave this word out as being redundant or to coin a forceful expression to convey the character’s distress or anger.

Dragon Rings is an epic tale with gruesome monsters, humane dragons, formidable witches, notably the high witch, Mayra ara’Ferren. She gets assistance from likely as well as unlikely corners. Still, betrayal, treason, and selfishness endanger everybody. Ms Binder creates gruesome war scenes, romance, and (unlikely) friendships. She builds a world of magnificent landscapes, castles, gardens, and wonderful libraries. All in all, this is an entertaining and exhilarating read that will attract lovers of fantasy. There are philosophical aspects for literary connoisseurs, but first and foremost, this is a sprawling fantasy, which has a clear-cut ending but also the potential for a continuation.

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Kevin Ansbro, Kinnara

Modern Time Fantasy

A chilling start. Three strains twisted around one another although taking place in three distinct corners of the world. Norwich, Kaiserslautern, Phuket. Hannah and Callum who are schoolfriends fated to fall in love, a quirky parental quartet, The Kinnara – part human and part swan – who is condemned to spend his life immobile in the Andaman Sea. An insane serial killer. Oriental heat and fragrance. Murky Germany. Upright – or downright Norwich. These are the elements of Ansbro’s Time bending fantasy in which the multiple points of view take the reader effortlessly from character to character and from country to country.

It is hard to say where Ansbro’s writing excels more – in the violence of the killer or in the fabulous ocean images that he presents. One thing is clear – this is a master at his art. The characters are vivid – from the young lovers to the Thai guy who befriends Callum – and from the serial killer (who will chill the reader to his or her bones) to the Kinnara, around whom the entire plot pivots.

Ansbro has a penchant for describing anything, from the Boxing day tsunami over the featureless Kaiserslautern area to the quirky Norwich family life, in a way that captures the readers’ imagination and takes her or him on the magic carpet flight of his inspiration.

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©HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Fable

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It has happened before but can’t happen again

When fairy-tale whirl reaches everyday kin.

Life becomes new as one kisses a frog.

Princes will naturally just feel agog.

Yet infinite wonders can sometimes restore,

What panic of fantasies cannot deplore:

More marvels and miracles vested in fable

Than muses and monsters divest with a sickle.

Ideals and those deeply rooted convictions

Must falter and die through the witches’ predictions.

***

We simple humans have none but restrictions

To savour the plot first compels predilections.

Mostly the outcome of winning huge prizes

Summarily ends in unwanted surprises.

Phenomenon instantly vary their guises

And force man or woman to grow several sizes.

Surely the answer to such cataclysms

Would give the brave cause to re-enter the prisms

Where light and the colours of life turn and tumble

The point of the matter brings zest to the humble

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© HMH, 2014

Categories
HM Paintings

Old House

It occurred to me to share some of the paintings that have been part of my life since my childhood. The first is interesting because I have a photo of the house in the painting. Also, the signature, HW doesn’t reveal much about the artist. However, this painting could have been part of my great-grandmother’s belongings. The photo suggests that she might have found and bought the painting on Bornholm. The other possibility is that an artist friend painted it for her. To be honest, there is a third option. My great-grandmother could have painted it, but nobody knows for sure. Her initials were the same as those on the painting.

© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Stray Toughts

Domestic Violence

I’ve been pondering this for a few years now. I wanted to write about it straight away but felt too raw about the incident. I got involved, and that could’ve been unwise. One could say it was no concern of mine, but there was no doubt in my mind: I had to act.

On the way to a meeting, I observed a couple walking in front of me. She drove a buggy with a little child. He walked in front. Then he turned around and started screaming at her turned around and walked on. This muster he repeated two or three times. By then I was getting close. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he was gesturing in a threatening way. On the corner of the street, they stopped, and it looked like things had calmed down.

I went past them and stopped at the red light. Behind me, they started quarrelling again. I don’t know why, but I turned around and at that moment, he grabbed her from behind: holding and shaking her shoulders. She started screaming, begging somebody to phone the police. Several people were standing around, but I was the only one who took out my phone. When I did that the man went away. When I got through to the police, I asked them to send somebody, giving my name and explaining what had happened and where we were.

The guy returned and as he saw me talking on my phone, he started screaming at me. He told me to put away my phone or he’d ‘take it and throw it on the street’. By then I was angry too, I tried to capture his ranting on the phone, but I believe that the call got cut off. Anyway, he stayed there shouting at me and his girl-fiend. I and some of the other people present tried to calm him down, but he kept threatening everybody. It took about five minutes. During that time, I noticed that the little kid had lost her cap and put it back on her.

When the police arrived, the guy disappeared rather quickly. The police talked to the young woman. They were helpful, as far as they could. They have their procedure, taking names and addresses, asking for the description of the man, and where he could have gone to. The young woman said that they lived together and that he could well have returned to their flat. Also, she explained that they’d had a long quarrel, lasting most of the day. He’d taken her mobile phone and, I believe, her bank card. The police sent another car to check if they could find him at the flat or somewhere on the street. When they heard that she’d have to go back to a flat she shared with this man, they suggested that it would be better for her to go somewhere else. It turned out that her parents live here, so they offered to bring her to them. I believe that she accepted the offer.

It was a harrowing experience, but worse for that poor woman and her child. We do far too little to avoid domestic violence. It is one of those things that, although they aren’t acceptable, can go on almost unchecked for years. People often know about the problem, but they don’t do anything. Admittedly, it isn’t easy to help. Mostly maltreated women are too scared to accept help or even admit that there is a problem. Often, they feel shameful about the abuse they are subjected to. No wonder, they’re alone with a violent man, they want to protect their children, and sometimes they still love their men, regardless of their inappropriate behaviour. These women are afraid for their lives, for their children’s lives, for the next beating.

In some ways, the law isn’t helpful. It is impossible to step in unless a crime has taken place. That means, a beaten wife must go to the police straight away and show her bruises, but most of us know women who try to explain away their bruises and or wounds, sometimes for years.

What makes men violent, and what makes women accept the beatings? Is it a matter of hormones or are there other factors? No doubt, there are men with excessive testosterone levels. But that isn’t the entire explanation. We must bear our part of the blame. Violence breeds violence. Little boys or girls that get beaten, learn that it is OK to hit. A slap can easily be followed by another. That’s how habits get formed. Abused children are more likely to abuse other children, their spouses, and children when they grow up. We know that. Still, some people insist that they have a right to chastise their children as they see fit. It’s a vicious circle. It can be broken, but It takes courage.

© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Hope

In a derelict world,

We need Kindness.

Yet, kindness may not be enough.

*

Recklessness takes away strength,

Compels us to carry the cost and

Turns us to strife

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In a world of strife

We need Patience.

*

Patience to bear what is raw

Will turn against us

Transform us to fighters

Who savour their rudeness.

*

In a world of rudeness

We need Grace.

*

But rudeness can alter a man

To a beast that is stronger

And laughs at our grace

To plunge us into the depth

Of despair.

*

In a world of despair

We need Hope

*

Will hope be our saviour

When thoroughly lost?

Or will strength come together and

Bring us across?

©HMH, 2021

Categories
Drawings HM

Four Flower drawings

Rose
Waterlily

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These four drawings stem from a period when I was learning to paint porcelain. It was a painstaking process, and my patience did give out. What remains are some sketches and – if it isn’t much – it’s better than nothing.

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Bouquet
Columbines

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Stray Toughts

Food for Thought

The sun visited for a few minutes yesterday. Today it has been snowing. Apparently, the polar vortex bears part of the guilt for the extreme conditions this winter. It might be colder tomorrow. The weather keeps see-sawing, and that may not change for the foreseeable future. It may get warmer for a couple of days, but there are always sudden temperature drops. No wonder that it’s difficult to adjust.

What a pity that humanity has done so much to screw up nature. We’re reaping the reward now. Or is it a punishment? Rather. There’s nothing to do but to make the best of it. Of course, that goes for everything that occurs these days. This is a weird period. One must stop to think, but the thoughts are hardly pleasant. Have we reached the point of no return? Who can tell? With the COVID19 situation, with the weather shot to pieces, with the general decay in comportment, it becomes urgent to ask such questions.

Was humanity always fraught with such flaws? No doubt. The question is whether we’ve moved so far towards a lack of consideration for our fellow human beings that this alone will constitute the beginning of our end. It isn’t easy to judge. Perhaps we need a wider perspective. On the other hand, it is not so simple to find out what the complete concept is and where it might lead us. Aye, that’s the rub. We dream and hope and think, but we may not be able to put a finger on the crux of the matter.

Where did we go wrong? Did we ever go right? Is that the real question? If so, we aren’t much better off than pond scum. Is there the slightest prospect for rectifying everything that we’ve caused through negligence and stupidity, through greed and selfishness? Where can we turn to find a path that will take us to a safe shore? If such a marvel exists? Maybe these questions are futile. Maybe we must look for the right questions. Could it be a matter of starting to think about what we, as individuals, might achieve?

Maybe one person can’t do much, except change his or her way of thinking. That must be the first step. It’s so easy to lean back and say – I alone can’t do anything. Stop and think. This may not be the place to start. If we start questioning what we do – and begin to take small steps in a better direction if we share our thoughts and actions, may it not create a movement towards something valuable? It may be a slow process, but it’s better than no process at all. If every individual would think and do our little bits to benefit the world we live in, could it make a difference? A tentative butterfly effect? It might be our only chance. If we wait, we won’t make a difference, but if we dare to move forward and do small deeds that may seem pointless in the large picture, this could inspire others to do their part.

© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Brooding

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Green lights

An orgiastic future fades

How to grasp when the tension

Between the possible and impossible

Fails?

*

A blueish lawn turns frosty

And naked feet will never progress

Along the faded roses.

Futile fears

Turn the city into shadows

Wailing about their loss.

*

We live in obscurity

Possessed by reckless

Dreams that were

Never meant to succeed.

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Paintings

Two Winter Sketches

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Just a short post this time to wish you all Happy New Year. I’m certain that most people are relieved to say goodbye to 2020 and hope that 2021 will be better – at least by degrees. Again, my sketches are digital works that I hope to paint sooner or later. . .

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM On Writing

My Last Reviews of 2020

Lesley Eames, The Runaway Women (Silver Ladies) in London

A Sweet Diversion Set in the Early Nineteen-Twenties

Four young women, Ruth, Jenny, Lydia, and Grace work together in a household in a small town. Their employer is a wealthy woman with a temper to reckon with. As a necklace disappears – stolen – she accuses her employees of the theft and dismisses them without references.

The four women, disgraced, and therefore unemployable must think of other options for making a living. In this gloomy setting, there is one spark of light. Ruth has inherited some money together with a carriage house in London. It transpires that there is a bonus in the carriage house – a Silver Ghost Rolls Royce. The four friends have the talents necessary to start a business, a car hire service that they dub the Silver Ladies.

Ms Eames is a dab hand at narrating and bringing her characters to life. The women meet unexpected trials and tribulations, their secrets and weaknesses help to keep the interest of the reader. There is a cast of lovers, villains, families, and friends to match the four protagonists, brave souls, who confront a male-dominated world to find a place in life. All in all, this is a charming confection of escapist delights.

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Mary Deal, Dead to Life

MIA, A Missing Key, and Mayhem

A key and a bunch of letters. That is all that Sara Mason and Huxley Keane possess to help them in their search for Huxley’s MIA brother Rocky. The key was found in Vietnam, but Rocky’s fiancée Emma Ellis has a matching key. During their search for Emma, they find out that her sister Evelyn committed suicide. The search takes Sara and Huxley from California to Hawaii and back in a perilous escapade that threatens their lives.

Ms Deal writes an efficient mystery with local colours and intriguing questions. Her dialogues are lifelike and her characters believable – whether agreeable or the contrary. There are many twists and turns before Sara and her friend find the truth.

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Katie Mettner, Granted Redemption

Poignant Love Story

Can two people who are scarred on their soul as well as on their bodies find love together? Carla and Grant both carry heavy burdens from their past, as they chance to meet at her coffee shop.

With the mellow fragrance of good coffee running through this romance, Ms Mettner creates a warm a fuzzy feeling inside her readers. Still, her writing doesn’t avoid the darker aspects in the lives of her protagonists, neither is the book without drama. There is a good balance between anguish and hope, and Ms Mettner’s writing is sufficiently powerful to make her characters stand out.

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JS Frankel, The Return of Master Fantastic

Montague is Gone and Mayhem Erupts

Paul and Myrna spend time on the watery world they visited in Master Fantastic. They need time to deal with all that has happened, but they can’t stay. Winged creatures are destroying the earth. Paul’s hearing has deteriorated, but Myrna goes through a transformation – she can hear and seems to have inherited her father’s magic.

JS Frankel takes us on another journey between the worlds. The fantasy returns and mayhem erupts as wild, weird, and wonderful happenings abound. Mr Frankel lets his imagination out to play in the sequel to Mr Fantastic. It is a fast-paced and sometimes extremely violent tale, but that is to be expected with evil creatures that want to destroy the world.

My only question to this is whether it was necessary to return to this fantasy. It appears to me as if there isn’t much scope for developing the characters, but that doesn’t stop it from being an entertaining and astute read.

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Carol Marrs Phips, Then

The Sequel to Wham.

When Wham ends nothing is resolved – and the same situation is true of its sequel Then. As I’ve already broadcasted my reflections on the use of hooks to sell books, it is only fair that I don’t reissue this now. There are many developments in this sequel, but the stakes are even higher as they were. The dystopia still reigns in a world that is already half destroyed by an underground sorceress, aptly named Pandora. At her beck and call, we find kidnapped Nia, still alive but placed in a dependent position to her kidnapper. Tess still fights to rectify the wrongs that mar the entire world, although the elf realm still is green and pleasant. Trolls, elves, humans, fairies, and the Greenwood family combine to fight Pandora, but the outcome stays uncertain.

In a multifaceted storyline with multiple points of views, a reader could lose the thread, if it weren’t for the Phipps’s firm control of the contrasting worlds and characters. This is admirable as is the world-building and character development in this second issue of Tess’s world.

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CA Asbrey, In All Innocence

Perfect Crime Thriller

I haven’t read all the parts of the Innocents series. When reading the third volume, I had no difficulty in catching up with the past. That doesn’t mean, I’m not tempted to read all there is about these innocents, although it would mean letting other books wait. Now, confronted with the fourth instalment, my appetite is growing.

Nat and Abigail move to Canada in the hope that it will give Nat a clean start. Not so, on a train heading across the mountains, a rock-fall stops them in their tracks. Worse, there is a murder committed on the train. This murder may stem from the theft of a moonstone, no doubt a homage to the first (nineteenth century) crime author, Wilkie Collins.

It is no surprise that Asbrey writes with her usual wit and expertise. Her characters develop convincingly, and Asbrey offers all the twists and turns an avid crime reader can wish for. A murder victim, a large group of English butlers, another victim, a nefarious business scheme, a kangaroo, and a cliff-hanger ending – combined with Asbrey’s excellent writing – make for a captivating read.

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CW Hawes, The Medusa Ritual

Works for Me

Special Agent Pierce Mostyn attempts to locate a rare book, which is forbidden for the good reason that it can unleash unthinkable terror on the world. He also works to rescue his partner Dr Dotty Kemper and so he is double engaged in solving this case.

A mysterious and mask-wearing man is part of the mystery, and Mostyn must confront him to find important clues. Not only that, but this old man is also the key to the mystery and the only link to Mostyn’s partner.

Mostyn fights against time and paranormal creatures through the seedy parts of La as well as deep in the crumbling tunnels beneath the city.

How come that I always start in the middle of a series? Not that it matters when the author knows what he or she is doing. The Medusa Ritual presents such a case.

The monster that confronts the people, who take part in the Medusa Ritual as it unfolds, combines Medusa’s snakelike tentacles (her hair) with some of the properties that are usually alleged to the basilisk. It possesses eyes that kill. All this helps to add to the horror that is worthy of the Cthulhu Mythos.

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Barbara Best, The Lincoln Penny

Time-Travel: Between Now and Savanna During the Civil War

An antique casket, a mysterious key, and a modern penny are part of this time-travel extravaganza. Jane Peterson is a normal girl in normal 2012. She is also a history geek and as a friend invites her to a Civil War re-enacting for her birthday, she happily prepares by making a costume. She takes her father’s birthday present, an antique jewellery box with her. In this box, she finds a key and carries it with her to the evening re-enactment party. Late in the evening, she opens a door and somehow gets transported back in time and into a raging battle.

It is beyond question that Ms Best did her research. She fills her narrative with detail that will interest a historically interested audience. What one might question is her narrative style. Why? One reason is the third person present tense and omniscient point of view. Sometimes Ms Best forgets in which tense she writes and that is unlucky. Other than that, she presents an interesting and captivating period, her characters are pleasant, but my greatest bugbear is the set up for another book in the series. It would be reassuring if authors like Ms Best would feel certain that they’ve engendered enough interest in their characters and ideas to sell volume two without leaving an obvious hook.

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Toya Richardson, The Festive Love Coach

Romantic Comedy

The Festive Love Coach opens with a bang. At a surprise visit to her boyfriend, Maya finds him entangled with his female business partner. She leaves him, and the flat, never to look back. The only difficulty is that it is close to Christmas and she has nowhere to go. The planned trip with her boyfriend is a smoking ruin and all the ‘interesting’ journey destinations are booked. What to do? Maya decides on a coach trip to Eastbourne.

Onboard there are quirky characters enough to satisfy any taste but worse, there is a young man who Maya already met – in unlucky circumstances. Honestly, the meet-cute between Maya and Carter is everything but cute. It gives Ms Richardson amble opportunity to exploit the antipathy that could lead to romance.

This is a festive romp that is both well-written and entertaining. A hotel in Eastbourne, loads or elderly but exceedingly alive characters, misunderstandings, mishaps, and rich food to die for – and fight to get rid of for the rest of the year. It was a quick but fun read – something to indulge in while enjoying a cream tea or with mulled wine and mince pies.

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David W Thompson, Possum Stew

Dark Poignant Short Stories with Holiday Themes.

Ten Stories, Ten Holidays

New Year, Miriam – a vampire’s honour code

Valentine’s Day, Eternal – a happy marriage or a ghost story

Easter, Possum Stew – don’t visit the shadow woods unless you’re prepared to withstand the test.

Mother’s Day, It’s Never Too Late – a mother’s love knows no boundaries

Father’s Day, The Phone Call – don’t be afraid to admit your love

Fourth of July, Let Freedom Ring – as love heals a broken heart so death renews the faerie kingdom

Happy Indigenous People’s Day (Columbus Day), The Saga of Running Deer – Little Fox the victim of schooling children at the tip of a bayonet. One way or another, Running Deer gives his life to save the children.

All Hallows’ Eve, When Dawn Breaks – Liam and Lola. The curse of life eternal, only to be ended through sunshine

Thanksgiving, Thank You, Edgar Allan Poe – older cousins, and a brother’s Dracula prank gone wrong

Christmas, Yuletide Spirits – Spirits come back to visit and comfort

A year may not last long, but the happenings in it determine how it touches the individual. David W Thompson shows humanity through the prism of monsters. Vampires, Ghosts, Faeries, Demons, Watchers of the Underworld, a Wendigo (a Native American avenging spirit) live in his ten short stories and help to show the deepest longings and pains as well as the horror, love, and redemption we humans share and live through. This is a tour de force of narrative mastery and leaves the reader thoughtful.

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Tia Fanning, Twelve Spankings from a Secret Santa

Folie à Trois?

Can Martha come back to the love of her life? What will be the consequences for her and for him? Nicholas accepts the ‘Christmas miracle’ but also works towards accepting that his business partner Peter takes an interest in Martha. The problem being that Martha also fancies Peter. Martha’s dawning feelings for Peter was what prompted her to leave. Now, she has lost her fight to deny her love for both men – and that is the reason she has returned. This is a dilemma that involves all three. Their solution is unique in many ways. Nicholas and Peter are long term friends, and they decide on the course to follow with regards to their mutual beloved. It is important for the understanding of the three to know that Martha expects discipline, administered by Nicholas. Peter is a Dominant and wants Martha for his Submissive. Hence the twelve presents: Martha must choose between one from each of her lovers during the twelve days of Christmas to get through her punishment for desertion.

This is a light-hearted tale looking at the ways people might enjoy sexual relationships. Ms Fanning does this with aplomb – showing the mutual respect between these three partners. Domination and spanking can’t take place without consent and it takes mature people to deal with the intricacies of this situation. It is admirable to portray this in such a wise and understanding manner. It isn’t always a smooth ride, but the characters live up to their mutual expectations and find a way of life that works for them. Twelve Spankings from a Secret Santa is an interesting and amusing tale about people with a difference.

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© HMH, 2020