October #BookReviews! @AmberDaulton1 @Virgilante @LBroday @bohemienneivy @m_morganauthor @JacqBiggar

I read some fabulous books in the month of October and am happy to share my thoughts on them with you!

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MY REVIEW:

Belle Hamlin lives to perform on stage, singing, and playing guitar. She’s tough as nails and has built thick walls around her heart, determined never to let anyone in. That is until she discovers she’s pregnant. A one-night stand with a sexy mechanic, Benjamin Starwell, changes her life.
He’s the father.
I love that she told him. I’ve read so many stories where the woman tries to go it alone and not tell the father, so Belle’s bold honesty is refreshing. The tumultuous and passion-driven course their lives take is riddled with obstacles. A drug lord, a jealous ex-boyfriend, and an even more jealous singing rival cause all sorts of life-threatening situations for Benjamin and Belle. I rooted for them all the way. They worked so hard at trying to build a relationship based on having a child together, but in the process, fell in love. The author threw plenty of hardships their way and kept me engaged and interested. The sex scenes sizzle. While there may have been a tad too many that did nothing to move the story forward, they were hot and graphic. The personalities of the characters are well-defined and three-dimensional. Belle’s snarky attitude fit her perfectly, and Benjamin’s undying loyalty endeared him to me. There are other characters in this story I enjoyed. I know this book is a part of the Onyx series, but it works well as a standalone. If you like a romance filled with action, angst, and hot sex, you will enjoy this book!

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MY REVIEW:

In the sixth book of The Hat series, Lizzie and The Hat face an evil nemesis determined to destroy The Hat. The Midnight Rambler is on a mission and using any means he can to accomplish it, including infusing fruits and vegetables with his evil power, turning them into vicious monsters who bite and destroy humans.
The first clue is when Lizzie stops at a roadside fruit stand to make a purchase. When she has to run for her life, there is no doubt another monster is on the loose and must be destroyed. The story only ramps up from there. The reader is introduced to Ray, a creation of Professor Lagamorph. Ray is a Frankenstein-like entity made from mixed-up, mismatched human parts and pieces. His very existence is in danger because now the Professor is missing, and he’s running out of the medicine required to keep him alive. The author did a great job of tying the kidnapping of the professor into the evil villain, The Midnight Rambler.
We see another softer side of Lizzie in this segment of the story when she falls for Ray as they join forces, along with The Hat, to try and find the professor and eliminate the Midnight Rambler.
As in all of the segments of this story, we get glimpses of Lizzie’s role in the band, Lizzie and the Pythons. Those are always entertaining, as is Night Bump Radio. This is an urban fantasy that is over-the-top bizarre, funny (at times), and a deadly race to destroy evil. This book, as with others in the series, is a standalone. If you like urban fantasy with a dabbling of magic, you will no doubt enjoy this story!

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MY REVIEW:

A man so scarred he hides in the darkness. A town dying. A doctor determined to save them all.
That’s what you’ll find in this poignant story about losing all hope, only to find it again. Jericho tried to save all the children in the fire. He couldn’t save Hope, and it torments him. He carries scars deep in his heart that match the horrendous ones on his face. People call him a monster. Yet, in the dead of night, he goes around town helping those who need it. Folks awaken to mended fences, food on their porches, or medicine they can’t afford. The new doctor in town follows him one night and witnesses his deep grief as he places a hand-carved wooden angel on the grave of a child.
Jericho has only one trusted friend. That is until Kathleen O’Shea makes it her mission to help him. This is such a heartwarming story and perfect for the Christmas season. Broday’s talent for wringing every drop of emotion out of a story will have you rooting for Jericho and holding your breath as more and more people die. I highly recommend it!

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MY REVIEW:

There are so many things I loved about this book. The storyline is fantastic. Who couldn’t love a story with King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot as side characters, not to mention the Elves of Avalon? The tale opens with twelve-year-old Issylte getting prepared to meet her widowed father’s betrothed. She’d much rather be riding her horse across the fields of Ireland than dressing like a royal princess. The joining of King Donnchadh and Princess Morag of Scotland creates a powerful alliance between the two kingdoms. But things take a quick turn when Issylte meets Morag.
Morag’s exquisite beauty doesn’t hide the iciness of her touch and the evil in her eyes. Two years after the royal wedding, Isslyte’s father is called away on business. It is during his absence, Morag makes her move, first sending away Isslyte’s nursemaid who’s been with her since birth, which breaks the young girl’s heart. That’s only the beginning of Morag’s devious actions. When Isslyte is escorted on a ride through the forest by two guards, they reveal the evil queen’s plot to have them kill her and bring her back the girl’s heart. But the guards are unable to perform such a horrific act, and Isslyte flees into the forest. It’s the beginning of a long journey for her.
The story bounces back and forth between the castle of Tintagel and an ambitious young knight, Tristan, who is the heir to the kingdom of Cornwall, ruled by his uncle, King Marke. Tristan competes for a chance to travel to King Arthur’s court and become a Knight of the Roundtable. It is there he trains under Sir Lancelot and becomes a fierce warrior. The story takes a long way around, covering several years as Isslyte struggles to avoid death. People Isslyite loves, get killed along the way. She is forced to change her name first to Eglantine, then to Lilee. As the years pass, she is trained by fairy witches and becomes a gifted healer. Her powers grow to great proportions, and she develops the gift of sight. It is in a vision she knows her father, the king is dead. She must regain the throne. But how? She is but a young girl with no army. The story culminates close to the end when Tristan is brought to Lilee to be healed, and they finally come together. The author does a fabulous job of describing the settings as well as showing incredible knowledge of herbs, oils, and healing gemstones. The ending of the story segues into the next book, and I will look forward to reading it. My only critique of this story is that it seemed too drawn out with some repetition that could have been tightened up. For a debut novel, it’s fantastic

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MY REVIEW:

I received an ARC of this book via BookFunnel, and I am so glad I did. Just as I have come to expect from Mary Morgan, she has woven a tale that kept me glued to the pages.
Aine is half fae and half human. She lives in a protected realm with her uncle and brother. But she longs for more. She wants to see the other Scotland and walk among humans. Even though it is forbidden, she uses her magic to make her wish under a star. The results are immediate and met with violence from her brother. Alex, chieftain of a Scottish clan and brave knight, stumbles through the veil in response to Aine’s magic. Aine’s brother promptly delivers a hard blow to the man’s head, and he is unconscious. At Aine’s insistence, they take him to Castle Toloch to heal. When Alex awakens, he is more than puzzled, and he has no memory of who he is or how he got to the castle.
I don’t want to leave any spoilers here, so I won’t get further into the plot of the story. But I will say Mary crafted three-dimensional characters that I had no trouble visualizing or falling in love with. She is also an expert at writing medieval settings mixed with magic. I loved everything about this book, from the odd quirks of each character to the intricately woven storyline. Aine was my favorite character. Even though she is a woman, she prefers working with the forge creating quality weapons rather than toiling in the kitchen chopping vegetables. She’s strong-willed and headstrong and filled with passion. Just what the brave knight needs. But will the gods allow them to be together, half-fae and human? You’ll have to read the story to find out. I highly recommend it. The book is currently available for pre-order and releases on December 5th.

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MY REVIEW:

This is such a great story with deeply flawed characters, dysfunctional family dynamics, and a love that won’t die. Renee is back home after two years of no contact. She fled without a word to anyone following her father’s suicide. It’s not until the last part of the book that the author lets the reader see why she carries such heavy guilt. Izzy, her younger sister is left to pick up the pieces after their father’s death. Not only does she take on the responsibility for their younger brother, Benjamin, but she also becomes their mother’s caretaker as cancer claims her vitality. Izzy holds a strong resentment toward Renee for abandoning them when they all needed each other. And it’s the death of their mother that has brought Renee back to the small town. The author does a great job of setting this story up, designating different chapters for different points of view, including Simon whose heart was shattered when Renee left. Of all people, she should have confided in him. But the reason she didn’t is shown in an early scene. If only. That’s what I kept thinking throughout the story. If only they’d each put aside their pain and egos and talk. But if they did, the story would be over. It kept me engaged and turning the pages. I love stories that delve into the human psyche and show many different responses to the same pain. The only reason I didn’t give this story five stars is the ending left me hanging. I needed some resolution, especially with Ben, and I didn’t get it. I needed to see a short scene after the near-drowning episode. I understand the author is setting this story up for the next one, but even just a few lines of dialogue between the siblings would have satisfied me. Nevertheless, it garnered four stars from me.

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That’s it from me for October. I hope you found something that intrigued you!

The Midnight Rambler by C.S. Boyack #NewRelease @virgilante

It’s always a pleasure to welcome a fellow Story Empire author to my blog site, and today I’m happy to welcome C.S. Boyack to talk about his latest book release. If you have followed The Hat series, you already know about Lizzie and her sidekick, the hat, who just happens to be from another dimension with all kinds of crazy powers and skills, including playing the bass guitar using Lizzie’s fingers. I’ve read all the books in this series and can attest to the fact they are super entertaining! Mr. Boyack’s imagination knows no boundaries. Take a look at his newest creation!

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It’s wonderful to get out and visit your blog, Jan. Means a lot that you’d donate your space to me. We all need places to promote, and I’d love to return the favor any time you’d like.

It seems like this tour is turning more into author tips and tricks than any I’ve done before, but they seem to make a good sales pitch. Before we dive into that, there’s a blurb and cover down below to give you more details about this story. My tips are also going to cover some of the events from the story.

So, why the flood? In every paranormal/supernatural/horror story, it’s important to delve into the isolation. The inability to escape or offer assistance. The characters have to solve the problems on their own. Pretty standard fare. I’m on record as trying to avoid low-hanging fruit, so I tried to come up with something different.

This is urban fantasy, and urban is part of the mix. It seems out of place to plunk my main characters in a remote cabin or put them in a plane crash miles from anywhere. After this many volumes, it would seem jarring to change the setting so drastically. I came up with the flood.

It isn’t unrealistic. 2022 seemed to have major flooding everywhere. While we were drying up out west and doing rain dances, other parts of the country were having their cars and homes washed away. Realistic…check.

Floods impede action. This is nearly as good as isolation because acting fast isn’t an option. My heroes can’t just cross town to save the day.

Part of these stories involves the struggles of a young person trying to make ends meet. Cars get ruined, and basement apartments are at risk during a major storm like this one. Work dries up after a major catastrophe. Plays right into my hands.

People sometimes have to stay put for a day or so, because nature is unforgiving. A young woman and young man staying in the same house might develop a certain kind of affection under the right circumstances if her magical hat doesn’t get in the way.

I had to do a lot of research into FEMA assistance after such an event, and made good use of it, even into the subsequent story, which I’m still drafting.

I promise not to make it so readers must read one story before tackling the next one. It wasn’t even that hard to pull off. FEMA food stamps are kind of self-explanatory even if you didn’t read The Midnight Rambler. I hope you will, though. It’s Halloween season and seems like the perfect way to while away an afternoon.

Created in Canva

Blurb:

Something evil is after the hat. The ageless enemies have battled many times, but this time Lizzie is wearing the hat. She’s also up against a ticking clock, in that if she can’t find the maker of her new friend’s medicine, he will die.

The Rambler has kidnapped the only witch capable of making Ray’s medicine in an attempt to make the hat sloppy in his efforts. He’s also flooded the streets with deadly minions to impede any progress our heroes might make.

As if that weren’t enough, Lizzie is facing more of life’s struggles, both financially and mechanically. This all goes down in the middle of a huge flood event that she’s ill-equipped to handle.

Join Lizzie and the hat as they battle the elements, the paranormal, and a being of pure evil. Lizzie might be battling some personal demons along the way as she and Ray grow closer.

Get your copy here: https://mybook.to/TheMidnightRambler

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Good Liniment – #NewRelease #TheHatSeries @virgilante

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I am thrilled to feature my good friend and fellow Story Empire contributor, C.S. Boyack‘s newest book release in The Hat Series! If you saw my review last week, you know how much I loved this newest addition to the series. I have read all of Lizzie and The Hat books and highly recommend them!

But for now, I’ll turn it over to C.S. Boyack and let him tell you about this new book!

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Thanks for lending me your space today, Jan. I’m here to talk about the newest tale in The Hat Series, called Good Liniment.

This one has been planned for a long time. Ever since book one I intended to return to witchcraft, but felt like Lizzie had to grow a bit as a fledgling monster hunter. She’s chased down a variety of different classic monsters, and has some skills by this time. Enough to be recognized by the local coven as someone who could help them with a problem.

This left me with the need of developing a magic system, and I had some personal desires of things I wanted to avoid. The biggie on that list was a school for magical sudents.

I took the path of apprenticeship for those who got spotted by the coven. In my world, magic is a genetic variation. One that has been hunted down and eliminated from the gene pool for centuries. This makes the coven quite secretive about their existence and lives in general.

To bring readers some of the fun with magic, I decided my witches would have one natural ability, no more than two at most. Other disciplines could be learned by study and practice. I decided early on not to limit myself to elements, those are part of the mix, but so is gadget magic, plant magic, death magic, weather, and anything else I can come up with later.

Writing this took some effort, because there are a lot of new characters. I made it so readers would be able to make a guess about specific witches without spelling it out for them. When Cyrus Yoder uses specific kinds of dirt, manipulates gravity, or uses a lot of clay, readers can make a logical guess about his skills.

I did spell things out for Dash Goodman, who is apprenticed to Cyrus. They spent some time figuring out that his natural ability involves air. Because he’s the character to walk us into this world, I don’t feel bad about how this got spelled out. I’m toying with the idea that he may have a second natural ability involving artwork. Might happen in a subsequent volume, might not. I’m on the fence about that. Dash has a penchant for stealing airplanes which helps me sell his natural ability. He’s also an artist so the groundwork has been laid if I want.

The clues are there, but can be subtle. Sometimes you have to glean it from names, like Solis and Umbra, who are twins. I may not revisit everyone in subsequent volumes, but I have a nice pool to draw from.

Just for fun, I included a test for witchcraft of my own invention. (Actually, I stole it from Staci Troilo, so props to her. She didn’t know it was a witchcraft test.) Readers might have a good time seeing if they can pass.

Readers should keep in mind that The Hat Series is dark humor. You’ll find death and blood, but there are light moments and pop-culture references aplenty. If this sounds like the series for you, they were all written as stand-alone short novels. You can pick up any volume that interests you and not feel lost.

Blurb

Someone is murdering members of the local witches’ coven. They turn to Lizzie and the hat for their unique skills that might help eliminate the killers.

A religious zealot might be a monster, but is still a human being. This task isn’t the same as staking vampires or shooting zombies. It isn’t the usual project Lizzie takes on for her night work.

This all takes place during a recovery period for Lizzie. She needs to keep her cover band together and find a new way of getting them gigs. More bands and less venues are making finances tight. The hat didn’t make things easier during her absence, by spreading rumors about why she took her sabbatical.

Someone killing others over a point of view insults Lizzie’s sensibilities. She has secrets to keep. Her employers have secrets, too. It doesn’t make for a comfortable working environment, but she agrees to do what she can.

Convincing her strong-willed employers to stay indoors during all this poses another problem. Can she keep them alive long enough to finish her task?

Good Liniment is full of magic, magical creatures, and an entire underground community living amongst us.

The Hat Series consists of short novels that can be read in a single afternoon. They’re full of snarky dark humor and can be easily read out of order.

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