‘Winterwood’ by Shea Ernshaw is a bewitching young adult fantasy

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“Winterwood” by Shea Ernshaw is about witches. Specifically it’s about Nora — daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and more — descended from a long line of witches who live and practice their magic along the shore of Jackjaw Lake and in the shadow of the forest outside the town of Fir Haven.

The Walker women came out of the forest back in the days when Fir Haven was a small gold mining town, and ever since, they have lived in a log cabin between the summer cabins and the dark forest. Nora lives there with her mother, now that her grandmother has died, leaving Nora with her moonstone ring. But Nora’s mother has left to sell her honey (charming bees is her particular magic), and Nora is alone in the cabin with only her wolf, Fin, to protect her when a blizzard envelopes the town and cuts off electricity and the roads.

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‘Takes One to Know One’ by Susan Isaacs is a mystery/thriller and a page-turner

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When a new Susan Isaacs novel comes out, her fans take notice. She’s not an extremely prolific writer; instead, she takes her time and writes a book every few years. But every one of her books has been a New York Times bestseller. She says she writes the kind of books she’d like to read — and she succeeds in writing books people love to read.

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‘A Sudden Death in Cyprus’ by Michael Grant is about “What ifs” and the power of believing

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Michael Grant’s first adult novel, “A Sudden Death in Cyprus,” is a convincing demonstration of his unique skill in creating prose fiction of virtually any genre or targeted age group.

In this novel, Grant creates a protagonist who is very much like the author himself. Like Grant, David Mitre (just one of his aliases) dropped out of high school, started a life of crime, and met that perfect woman in the window. Like Mitre, Grant was a fugitive from the law — perhaps that’s why he took a pseudonym as an author. Regarding the Grant/Mitre oneness, Grant explained to me, “Frankly I thought Mitre might be insufferable, so I’m relieved people don’t seem to hate him (me). The Mitre ‘voice’ is a pretty faithful representation of what goes on inside my head.” So it’s not “just” a mystery, it’s also a character study — of the author and what he might have become had he not chosen well in terms of a life partner. Continue reading

‘Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation’ by Stuart Gibbs is a middle grade book that has ageless appeal

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Be forewarned. Once you pick up “Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation” by bestselling author Stuart Gibbs, you won’t be able to put it down until the last page is over, and you’re reading the acknowledgements.  Really.

You’ll be hooked from the very first page, which is the Prologue in which Albert Einstein is dying, leaving behind not only his theory of relativity, but something called Pandora, an equation which could change the world.

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‘Sauerkraut’ by Kelly Jones is a ghostly middle grade story about making connections and helping family

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In “Sauerkraut,” author Kelly Jones continues to show her expertise in writing clever and touching stories that include a bit of ghostly action. In this story, Hans Dieter Schenk, also known as HD. His dad was Hans Peter Schenk, his grandfather Hans Gerhard Schenk, and before him Hans Franz Schenk. Until HD, all the Hans’ looked pretty much the same with pale skin, hair and blue eyes. But HD is different. While his skin is lighter than his mothers, his dark locs (dreadlocks) are longer than hers. And people sometimes confuse his father with his best friend Eli’s father “Just because they’re both white. It’s … awkward.”

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‘The Cold Way Home’ by Julia Keller is a marvelous murder mystery that spans generations and features fabulous characters

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“The Cold Way Home” by Julia Keller is the latest in her series of books about Bell Elkins, former prosecutor in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia. Acker’s Gap is one of many impoverished former mining towns that are losing residents and succumbing to the opioid crisis. While this is the eighth book in the series, it also works perfectly well as a stand alone novel. Each of the novels in the series take place a year or so after the previous one, so there is no feeling of missing something. But that being said, reading all of them is a delight.

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‘The Chestnut Man’ by Soren Sveistrup: Gory and terrific

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Danish novelist Soren Sveistrup’s “The Chestnut Man” offers us two fascinating protagonists, several gruesome murders, a few puzzling clues, and zero investigative results — through many hours and days — despite a long, grueling search for the perpetrator. Here is an electric police procedural/murder mystery and a harrowing miasma of gritty suspense that builds to a brutal, ugly, and entirely appropriate climax. “The Chestnut Man” is downright perfectly nerve-wracking. Just as it’s supposed to be.

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‘The Escape Room’ by Megan Goldin: nonstop action from the first page to the last

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Greed and arrogance are qualities that permeate the personalities of the characters in Megan Goldin’s “The Escape Room.” The first chapter offers the reader clues that the story will not end well for some of those characters, but just how that comes about is part of the mystery and the thrill. Four hedge fund traders at the competitive firm of Stanhope and Sons are commanded to appear for a team-building exercise. Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam all have better things to be doing, but they are all extremely competitive, and they all want to get the best bonus possible, so they all show up to the not-quite-completed office building and enter the elevator.

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‘Under Currents’ by Nora Roberts is a sweeping story of life and finding strength after abuse

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“Under Currents” is author Nora Roberts at her best. The list of books by this prolific author fills four pages before the start of the novel, and The New Yorker called her “America’s most popular novelist.” In this story, Roberts attacks an important issue that is too often swept under the rug — abuse. Children, women, and men suffer from abuse by family or partners or even casual boyfriends or girlfriends. “Under Currents” begins by introducing what appears to be a perfect family. However, as the reader quickly learns, all is not as the neighbors and townspeople and even close relatives believe.

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‘Betrayal in Time’ by Julie McElwain is a wonderful mystery/scifi/historical fiction novel

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“Betrayal in Time” by Julie McElwain is the fourth novel in which Kendra Donovan, a 21st century FBI agent, is unwittingly sent to the past while trying to avenge the deaths of  most of her team. Her goal is to kill the culprit in England. When someone beats her to the kill, she escapes up a staircase and ends up in 1815, in England.

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