Paradise on Fire by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Synopsis:

Content Warnings: Wild Fires, Parental Death

From award-winning and bestselling author Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age survival tale exploring issues of race, class, and climate change

Addy is haunted by the tragic fire that killed her parents, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. Now, years later, Addy’s grandmother has enrolled her in a summer wilderness program. There, Addy joins five other Black city kids—each with their own troubles—to spend a summer out west.

Deep in the forest the kids learn new (and to them) strange skills: camping, hiking, rock climbing, and how to start and safely put out campfires. Most important, they learn to depend upon each other for companionship and survival.

But then comes a devastating forest fire…

Addy is face-to-face with her destiny and haunting past. Developing her courage and resiliency against the raging fire, it’s up to Addy to lead her friends to safety. Not all are saved. But remembering her origins and grandmother’s teachings, she’s able to use street smarts, wilderness skills, and her spiritual intuition to survive.

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About the Author

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, and a memoir, but writing for children remained her dream.

Now she is the author of seven books for children including the New York Times bestsellers Ghost Boys and Black Brother, Black Brother. Her other books include Towers Falling, and the Louisiana Girls Trilogy: Ninth Ward, Sugar, and Bayou Magic. Her forthcoming novel, Paradise on Fire, will publish in September 2021.

Jewell has received numerous honors including the American Book Award, the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing, and a Coretta Scott King Honor.

When she’s not writing, she’s visiting schools to talk about her books with the kids who read them, or teaching writing at Arizona State University, where she is the Piper Endowed Chair and Founding Artistic Director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

Author Links:

Website: https://jewellparkerrhodes.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jewell_p_rhodes

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jewellparkerrhodes/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/135707.Jewell_Parker_Rhodes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JewellParkerRhodes

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXNEhN3tf-K7tymbTXTl-Ew

My Review

Paradise on FireParadise on Fire by Jewell Parker Rhodes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Exciting and immediately absorbing; I loved it!

Yes, I loved this book! With interesting young leading characters, all with their own issues and fears, the story evolves, and the tension steadily increases until you find yourself smack in the middle of some honest-to-goodness pulse-pounding action. I almost thought I was breathing the fresh air and, later, choking on ash and embers. The characters were so very engaging that I was much affected as things unfolded. The story easily and totally absorbed me from start to finish.

In addition to the exciting story, the very serious themes of climate change, ecological degradation, and the need for environmental protection come through the action. These concepts with consequences are presented simply and straightforwardly so the youngest readers will understand, and older ones will not feel it’s too preachy.

Paradise on Fire is an unforgettable adventure story that is perfect for middle grades, high school, and readers who enjoyed Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from NetGalley.



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Ghost Agents (Ghost Agents Trilogy, #1) by Nita DeBorde

A fantastic paranormal-cozy mystery you’ll be tempted to read from start to finish in one sitting!

Ghost Agents, the first book in the Ghost Agents Trilogy, was a fantastic story from start to finish. I loved everything about this book: the premise, the plot, the characters, and the (close-to-home-for-me) setting of Galveston, Texas.

The main character, Claire Abelard, is a determined young woman, dedicated to her job with The Bureau for Historical Preservation, to preserve and promote historically significant locations to keep their stories and local history alive, AND to monitor and assist the ghosts (known as “projections”) stay safe and on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, such commitment doesn’t come without sacrifices; as a bureau agent, Claire is posted to cities wherever her Level 5 skills are needed most, which keeps her separated from her family in Boston most of the time. Her job doesn’t leave Claire with much time or energy for a social life, either. Not only does she maintain a day job in a candy store as a cover for her bureau activities, but she also has a night job leading ghost tours of some of Galveston’s leading haunted places. Then, after the evening tours are over,  she may have to conduct additional bureau business. But she is consistent in her goal to preserve, promote, and protect the ghostly projections in her jurisdiction and those outside it that have gone “rogue.” She’s smart, independent, witty, and an all-around fun character.

Other fun characters include the projections, including Claire’s three “roommates:” Sarah Meriwether, the motherly former owner of their shared home, April Parish, the tragic victim of spousal abuse, and Thelma Gates, a party girl from the 1920s. The author incorporates actual historical figures whose spirits are thought to haunt real venues located in Galveston (one of the most haunted cities in the U.S.) among Claire’s contacts. Some of Galveston’s long history is woven into the storyline as well.

Along with the city’s exciting history, the author does a fabulous job creating the secret world of “The Bureau” and the story and nature of the projections. The background exposition is cleverly delivered in both dialogue and excerpts from the Bureau’s history textbook that its agents-in-training are issued and expected to know.

With its fresh plot, burgeoning romance and sibling estrangement subplots, superb setting, and wonderful characters, Ghost Agents is a great cozy mystery that is sure to grab a reader’s attention and take it on an action-filled adventure. I highly recommend this book to any cozy mystery reader who enjoys a paranormal storyline.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Fools Rush In (Lady Vigilante Crime Series, #19) by Hayley Camille

Fools Rush In is the exciting continuation of the search for the villains behind the Boudoir Butcher murders.

With a new understanding between mother and daughter after an almost tragic kidnapping, Betty begins training Nancy in earnest to be more fully prepared for the future ahead of her. Undoubtedly, Nancy will be in the thick of things from here on out, and her mother wants her to perfect her skills as soon as possible.

Adina realizes that Betty is not what stands in her way for a future with Jacob Lawrence; it is her own feelings. She is no longer in love with him, and she believes the feeling is mutual. She is ready to accept Betty’s help to keep little Teddy hidden from his birth mother, Violet Mills. But just as things are looking really good on the home front, the Boudoir Butcher rears her ugly mug again.

Fools Rush In continues the search for the villains behind the Boudoir Butcher murders. This is the 19th installment in the episodic Lady Vigilante Crime Series. I loved that this episode shows healing in the Jones’ family relationships as well as those with some of Betty’s friends, such as Adina and Jacob. Amid crisis, Betty establishes some new ties with the ladies downtown but, sadly, must engage unnecessarily with an old adversary.

As usual, the author does an admirable job recreating “the look and feel” of early 1940s New York City, incorporating the fashion, language, and music of the time. A battle between Betty and the Ghost Warriors’ Enforcer, Chén Qiáng, is one of the best fight scenes of the series, and there have been many memorable ones.

Fools Rush In is not a standalone novelette, and readers should start reading the series from the very beginning to enjoy Betty’s adventures. I recommend the Lady Vigilante Crime Series to readers of cozy mysteries, historic cozies, those who like stories set in New York City or set during World War II.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

Fools Rush In is available for pre-order on Amazon.com with a publication date of August 4, 2021.

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A Tale of Two Sisters (The Fortune-Telling Twins Mysteries, #1) by Bettina M. Johnson

A Tale of Two Sisters is a light and fun paranormal mystery, and the journey to its resolution is both exciting and entertaining.

Maggie Fortune leads a secret ten-member team of monster-hunters who move about the country undercover as part of a traveling caravan of antique appraisers. Like the more well-known “Antiques Roadshow,” the caravan stops in various towns along its way to let people bring them their prized possessions in hopes of discovering hidden riches. However, individuals of the paranormal variety bring in items having a different goal. They want these experts to determine if their possessions are cursed, bewitched, or masking and hiding a supernatural evil, and if they are, they want the items cleansed of the danger or released from the spell. Maggie’s team is comprised of a mix of extraordinarily talented individuals: Maggie and her sister, Ellie, are both witches but others are vampires, shifters, elementals, druids, succubi, and even a ghost.

At their most recent stop, Maggie is approached by the elderly Birch sisters, Esther and Louise, with a lamp. They insist the lamp is actually hiding the spirit of their younger step-sister, Millicent, who passed only days earlier. Not wishing to be buried, they believe Millicent has somehow used the island magic of her people back on St. Lucia to hide her mortal remains from them. They want Maggie to expel Millicent from the lamp and find her body for them so they can give her a proper burial.

Things just sound wrong to Maggie, but she agrees to take on their case. Able to tell special things about an item, such as its history from a touch, Maggie picks up the lamp and finds herself transported to the sisters’ old Victorian home, where she encounters a woman who looks like Millicent. However, when she turns to face Maggie, the woman begins to shriek, and her face is completely blank and without features. Frightened, Maggie breaks the connection, realizing there’s way more to the story than what the sisters have told her. She is determined to have her team get to the bottom of things.

A Tale of Two Sisters is a delightful story chockful of witches and a myriad of paranormal beings, some a familiar variety such as vampires and shifters but also some of the less well-known types like succubi, druids, or elementals. The monster-hunting team is a collection of these various beings, all using their special talents and skills to save the human world from the evils of the unknown. They travel from place to place under the guise of a major antique appraisal business owned and operated by Maggie and Ellie’s family, but even Maggie’s father doesn’t know about the team’s true mission.

Maggie herself is a witch and is the heart and soul of the book. She’s bright, funny, and good-hearted, a character to get behind and root for from the very start. She’s got a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, which she handles well. But when provoked, Maggie shows what a tough cookie she really is. She was so engaging and fun, someone I’d enjoy knowing in real life.

In addition to solving the case of the missing Millicent, the story has what looks to be an ongoing mystery, one that will continue through to the next book in the series, at least, regarding Maggie’s twin sister. Ellie is a ghost, sort of. She’s not quite dead (her body is enclosed in a glass coffin back at the Fortune family’s home, never decomposing), but she’s most certainly not alive either. The members of the team can see her, but only Maggie can hear her speak. So far, she seems free to come and go as she pleases and can touch and move items. The only clue to who is responsible for her current condition is a small statue of a wolf.

I liked that there is a tie to the author’s Lily Sweet series. Lily is a young artist living in Sweet Briar, Georgia, who only recently discovered she was descended from a family of witches and is herself a dark witch. The family in Georgia are cousins to the Fortune family.

This is also a story about sisters and features three different sister groupings: the twins, Maggie and Ellie, the elderly Birch sisters, twins Esther and Louise, and Millicent, and there’s even the succubi sisters, Serena and Sydney. It was interesting to note the different relationships that existed among all the sisters.

Coming in at under 120 pages, this first tale in the Fortune-Telling Twins Mysteries is a smart and fun novella that is easy to enjoy and well worth the time spent reading it. A Tale of Two Sisters is a solid, interesting mystery and the journey to its resolution is both exciting and entertaining. It is a great introduction to this new series. I recommend it to readers who enjoyed the author’s other series, like cozy mysteries featuring the paranormal, especially witches, and even readers who would enjoy a light, fun mystery featuring sisters and antiques.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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The Rise of Alpha (Savage Dawn, #2) by Robert Cole

Fresh, exciting, and shocking and a new post-apocalyptic tale to enjoy.

A nuclear war had destroyed society on Earth and left pockets of survivors scattered across its surface, fighting for every aspect of life. However, below the surface near the former village of Box in Wiltshire, there existed one final remnant of the world from before the holocaust, the advanced, secret city of Genesis. Built and populated by the military and scientific community in case such a catastrophic event as this happened, Genesis had continued to thrive deep inside the Earth as the desperate survivors on the surface suffered nuclear winter and the collapse of the world completely unaware of its existence.  But the leaders of Genesis knew what was going on above them and plotted to remove the sick and savage surface survivors. Their goal was to clear the way so when the Earth recovered, the people of Genesis could return to the land and restart society. The surface survivors, however, had other plans.

Three months ago, Alex Carhill and other survivors from rough cobbled-together communities in Wales and Scotland had discovered Genesis and their plans. En masse, they had breached the defenses of the underground city, and now he and leaders from both the surface and city were working hard to meld the two communities into one even though both held deep-seated resentment against the other. But then the rumors of survivors from the European continent flooding their island home’s shores began to surface. This wave of humanity was trying to escape a deadly new plague that had decimated survivor communities throughout France and Spain, and many of the new arrivals were infected, sick, and dying.

The combined Genesis leadership argued fiercely over what to do to stop the steady advancement of the new disease. Some proposed turning the wretched survivors back or killing them all as they arrived to prevent the disease from getting a foothold in England. But others successfully argued to launch a medical expedition to collect samples of the disease from the stricken and work to develop methods to treat, prevent, and cure it. Alex is tapped to lead the medical mission of mercy, but the convoy is not far along in their trek when they discover the new plague isn’t the greatest danger that has landed on their shores.

The Rise of Alpha is the second novel in the Savage Dawn series by Robert Cole. An exciting adventure story of survival, betrayal, and overcoming impossible odds, there seemed to be something surprising happening with every turn of the page. It was an easy-to-read and very enjoyable tale.

Alex Carhill, our hero, returns from book one along with his girlfriend, Elaine, and many others who will be familiar to the series’ readers. However, the cast of characters does not remain stagnant as tragedy strikes, and the author’s excellent world-building provides many new faces to love or hate.

It was great to see new threats evolve as well as new champions emerge as the story progressed. There are some great characters, and the Alpha society is pretty amazing and very well-developed. I found it easy to get behind the idea of the Alphas being the next step in human evolution and liked the extrasensory aspects of their development a lot. I liked that the author created something new, and we didn’t have the same old marauding bands of evil scavengers or zombies. Though I enjoy both of those staples in post-apocalyptic stories, it was awesome to face different and fresh evils.

Two horrifying threats, other than the plague, of course, gave me the willies. One was the subplot of how the city of Genesis attempted to wipe out the surface survivors before they discovered their underground hideaway. This storyline was shocking, and I was quite disturbed by what they had tried to do. The other threat was created when everyone’s pets were left to fend for themselves after the missile blasts. I love my dogs, but I did catch myself giving them the side-eye as I read late at night.

Another thing I enjoyed about this story was the setting. The author references actual towns and villages, and roadways which ground the action to the real world. Most people enjoy being able to visualize a book’s setting, especially if it is a familiar one. A map is conveniently provided to help set the location even more quickly.

I recommend The Rise of Alpha to readers of post-apocalyptic fiction, especially if they happen to be from the areas where most of the action takes place. For the best enjoyment, Nuclear Midnight, the first book in the series, should be read beforehand. Readers may be able to figure out references to events in the past and still have a good story, but really, Nuclear Midnight was an entertaining tale on its own. Both are quick, interesting, and fun selections in this genre.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Nuclear Midnight (Savage Dawn, #1) by Robert Cole

A well-done post-apocalyptic tale set in Wales featuring young adult protagonists.

Brothers Alex and Jason Carhill were several months into a planned year-long world tour traveling from their native Australia when troubles between the US and Russia suddenly erupted. Due to the volatility of the political situation, they decided to cut their trip short when they arrived in London, both to let things settle down and to see the city sights while they waited it out. The boys had lived in London when they were small and were ready to discover the places of their childhoods. However, neither the US nor Russia were backing down from hardline ultimatums, and the world’s citizens were holding their collective breaths as the two angry superpowers appeared headed toward a final showdown.

The London population began to panic, prepared for the worse, hoarding supplies and clogging all roads out of the city. But just as suddenly, the crisis appeared to have been averted, and the boys decided to hire a car and drive west to tour Devon and Cornwall. After several days on the road, a single emergency warning came that Russia had launched a large number of missiles, some of which were headed to Great Britain.  But before the brothers could even seek shelter, the world around them exploded with brilliant white light and searing heat.

When Alex came to, he was in an underground shelter, and Jason was missing, taken to a nearby hospital to treat the injuries he’d received when the car they’d been in had been destroyed.  The world was dark, the wind was howling, and a nuclear winter was upon them. Radiation fall-out made leaving to search for his brother impossible. He was alone with random strangers, many of whom were already showing the signs of radiation poisoning but safe, at least for the moment.

As soon as radiation levels dropped enough, Alex and others from the shelter (an old church basement) were sent out to search for additional survivors, supplies, government assistance, and Alex’s brother. But when they found instead was sheer chaos and a world quickly returning to savagery.

Nuclear Midnight is the first book in author Robert Cole’s post-apocalyptic series, Savage Dawn. The story follows the survival journey of young Alex Carhill and the comrades he acquires as he searches for safety, food, and a community of survivors looking to rebuild their world. It is an exciting and action-filled story with, literally, never a dull moment. The danger felt plausible and real, and because I quickly became engaged in Alex’s survival, I never wanted to put the book down. The setting in Wales was a new one for me, so I found that extra interesting and fresh. The storyline includes some great battle sequences that, although conveying the panic and confusion inherent in war, were still easy to follow and understand. These scenes were exceeding well done. If I had a complaint, it would be that the story had a somewhat abrupt ending. However, with the next book in the series on the Savage Dawn horizon, the wait to find out what happened next isn’t too long.

I recommend Nuclear Midnight to readers that enjoy post-apocalyptic tales featuring young adult protagonists, especially those set in Great Britain.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Skid Kids by Michael Franz

Skid Kids is the exciting story of young mutants who must battle it out in a cut-throat roller-derby-style competition for the pleasure and entertainment of the humans and a chance at freedom.

Skid Kids is an exciting young adult story of the dystopian world of the mutants’ Wastelands and Westport, where the remainder of humanity is gathered. The walled city of Westport, or ‘The Station’ as the mutants call it, is governed by the powerful ‘National Freedom Party,’ their leaders entrenched in maintaining the status quo and apt to do anything to keep it so. But not all humans believe that mutants are less than animals, dangerous, and require extermination; they remember they used to be humans, too. The mutants were created when they were caught in “The Cleanse,” the Station’s attempt to purify the contaminated air trapped inside the city of Westport. As the latest season of the Skid Track League approaches, the citizens of Westport sympathetic to the plight of the mutants are finally prepared to act on their beliefs. To the young mutants, the start of the Skid Track League represents hope, and it’s their only hope. The Skid Track team of mutants that comes in first at the end of the season is awarded their freedom. 

Author Michael Franz has created a vivid world of opposites in the Wastelands and mutants and Westport and its people. His descriptions of the circumstances of the mutant population are almost tangible and desperate. The opulence and insulation of Westport, the city of the hope of the mutant rollers, is not what it seems. The cracks in the myth of freedom are slowly revealed as Zander and his young sister, Kensy, get drawn into the political machinations going on in Westport.

And speaking of Zander and Kensy, the brother and sister duo are the main characters of the story and are surrounded by a variety of interesting and sympathetic supporting friends. You can’t help but root for the mutants (on most all of the competing teams). They are that likable and relatable. Yes, there’s a bad apple or two (both mutant and human), but what would the plot be without them? It took a little longer for me to get on board with the Westport folks, but eventually, I did as the two stories entwined.

Although Skid Kids features mostly young adult characters (mutants don’t live long), I think readers of all ages will enjoy it. I found it an absorbing story and whipped through the over 400-page-long tale, feeling quite annoyed when I had to put it down to return to necessary tasks like sleep.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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The Church of Tango: A Memoir by Cherie Magnus

I became a believer.

When her beloved husband, Jack, died from cancer, Cherie Magnus was set adrift. Cherie and Jack had planned their later lives as a couple. They had even invested in a second home in one of their favorite locations in France, near the Swiss border. But, instead, she found herself living alone in the family home in Los Angeles, her adult sons busy with their own lives. Cherie continued to work as a librarian, and soon the first holidays without Jack came and went. Some of their life-long “couple” friends melted away with Jack’s death. Others turned out to be snakes in the grass, not above taking terrible advantage of Cherie’s sudden widowhood.

But her passion for everything French remained, and Cherie decided to take her vacation alone in Paris, registering for a two-week intensive French language course. It is there that she first met and fell for Olivier, the class instructor and a married man. She returns to LA, but the long-distance relationship is far from over.

THE CHURCH OF TANGO is Cherie Magnus’s no-holds-barred memoir of her renewed search for life after the loss of her much-loved husband. She tells all: her loves, adventures, mistakes, and discoveries. Her story made me go through so many emotions! There she was, poised on the brink of being able to restart her life with her husband as an empty-nester when he was diagnosed with cancer. Later, she, too, received a cancer diagnosis (twice!). So she traveled to strange and exotic places to live and dance and love again.

I was so comfortable with the author’s writing style. Her words flowed, and I willingly followed. I admired her gutsy approach to following her heart to experience new things, hone her skills in the world of dance, and live life to the fullest. Several times I paused to seek out YouTube examples of the dance styles she was exploring or research more about a new-to-me term or look on a map to find the exotic location she was visiting. It was chockful of interesting tidbits and facts along with her absorbing story. The descriptions of the culture of the places she was living and especially that of the tango dance clubs were fascinating. I was delighted to see the author has additional books (just waiting for me!) about other times of her exciting life. I highly recommend THE CHURCH OF TANGO for readers that enjoy women’s memoirs (this is a must-read!), memoirs related to dance, and true stories of living life to its best advantage.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through France Book Tours.

Cherie Magnus

on Tour June 1-14 with Church of Tango cover

The Church Of Tango: A Memoir

(memoir) Release date: 2012 292 pages Mirasol Press Goodreads 📚📚📚

Buy It Here:

Amazon / Barnes & Noble

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SYNOPSIS

IWhen she couldn’t do anything else, she went to Paris. This is a story of survival that cuts across death, cancer, Alzheimer’s, loss of home and homeland and cherished heirlooms and possessions, loss of shared histories, of hope for one’s children, of hope for the future, of love. But it’s also about finding love and unexpected joy. And about listening to the music and dancing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Church of Tango_Cherie MagnusCherie Magnus returned home to Los Angeles, California in 2014 after teaching tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina for eleven years. Before her South American expat adventure, she lived in France and Mexico. Cherie worked as a dance research librarian at the Los Angeles Central Library and was a dance critic for local newspapers. She is the author of the Death Dance Destiny Memoir Trilogy, which includes The Church of Tango. Her articles and reviews on dance, books, travel and international culture have been published in magazines, professional journals, and anthologies. To find our more, please visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter
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You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blog participating in this tour. Visit/Follow the participating blogs on Facebook/Twitter, as listed in the entry form below, and win more entry points!

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open to US residents 3 winners will receive a kindle copy of this book

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Behind the Wall (Shades of Secrets, #1) by Harris Kloe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Atmospheric with its bite-sized Twilight Zone delivery and smidge of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart!

There’s something ‘off’ about the check-in at the Hill View Hotel from the very start. And when the clerk is reluctant to give him the pricey and unreserved penthouse suite, saying he thought he might prefer something a little more budget-minded, Henry is on the alert. But the beautiful room is perfect for a restful night until it wasn’t. Author Harris Kloe does a great job building the reader up for the surprising reveal. With its compact length of 15 or so pages, Behind the Wall is a quick and entertaining short story. Perfect for a little bedtime reading?I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

Behind the Wall is the first story in the Shades of Secrets series, a collection of five different stories with a similar theme. It is included in the Kindle Unlimited program and will be available for purchase at a reduced price of 99 cents. However, if you hurry, I noticed that it is offered FREE of charge today!

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Island on Fire by Sophie Schiller: Book review & Giveaway

Island on Fire is an historical reimagining that is both fascinating and suspenseful!

It is the end of April 1902, and Emilie Dujon, the daughter of a coffee and cocoa planter on the island of Martinique, has her whole life planned out. She’s happily engaged to marry a successful sugar plantation owner, Lucien Montplaisir, and the wedding invitations have all been sent out. It is hoped the marriage will pump much-needed money into her family’s plantation, just in the nick of time. All in looking up for the Dujons until Mont Pelée, the long-dormant volcano looming nearby, begins to smoke and spew ash, rock, and sulfurous gases down over the region.

At this same time, an important and hotly contested election is underway in the closest city, Saint-Pierre, a beautiful port town known as ‘the Paris of the West Indies.’ The governor and his supporters are determined to get the voters to the polls and secure the status quo. But to do so, the populace must remain calm and remain in the city. To assuage their fears that Mount Pelée is about to erupt, he forms a scientific committee to travel to Pelée’s summit, study the conditions there, and return with their recommendations. What he actually wants is for the committee to back up his opinion that all is well.

On an evening at the theatre with Lucien, Emilie inadvertently discovers he is cheating on her. She had recently begun to doubt the wisdom of her engagement to him, and this only cements her desire to break the engagement. But when she approaches her parents with her decision, they will hear none of it. Her confrontation with Lucien only angers him and confirms that he means to take her family’s plantation for his own once they are wed.

When the scientific committee stops at the plantation seeking a guide up the mountain’s slope, she decides to get away from her troubles for a while and feed her curiosity about the wakening volcano by joining their party. One member of the committee is the newly-arrived French lieutenant, Denis Rémy. He and aide-de-camp lightheartedly pass the time as they travel up the mountain vying for Emilie’s attention. But when he saves her from a deadly snake, it is Rémy that earns her gratitude and admiration.

When the committee sees the volcano is likely to erupt at any moment, they rush back to confer with the governor. Despite their observations and warnings, he still maintains there is no imminent danger. As conditions worsen, the residents of the villages closest to the volcano’s blasts of heat, rock, and ash begin to pack Saint-Pierre’s streets.

Emilie’s situation grows even direr when Lucien discovers her having dinner with Rémy in a town restaurant, a discovery that ignites into a very public fight between the two men. Emilie, desperate to escape Lucien’s grasp, impulsively consults a powerful island herbalist, one known to be knowledgeable in the ways of voodoo. But once she’s indebted to the evil man, things really take a turn for the worse.

As the tremors, ash, and rock spewing from Mount Pelée increase, the governor locks the city down. He forbids anyone to leave and requires all public servants to remain at their posts as if nothing were wrong. With food becoming scarce and water despoiling, the city edges closer and closer to boiling over into mass panic and chaos.

ISLAND ON FIRE is a historical fiction novel based on the 1902 eruption of Martinique’s Mount Pelée, the most deadly volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The heat, ash, and flying debris destroyed the port city of Saint-Pierre and took the lives of approximately 30,000 individuals in only minutes. The story is a fascinating reimagining that is both suspenseful and absorbing. The romantic side plot of Emilie, Lucien, and Denis Rémy was well incorporated, well-told, and ultimately, very satisfying. The voodoo subplot was thrilling and horrifying; I couldn’t stop reading. By the end, I was thoroughly entertained, had learned a lot about Martinique’s history, culture, and geography, and found myself checking out travel options to the interesting island. I recommend ISLAND ON FIRE to readers of historical fiction, those interested in tales set in the West Indies, and armchair travelers to the French Antilles.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a copy of the work from the author through France Book Tours.

Sophie Schiller

on Tour May 18-31 with Island on Fire  

Island On Fire

(historical fiction) Release date: March 1st, 2018 272 pages Goodreads 📚📚📚

Buy It Here:

Amazon / Barnes & Noble

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SYNOPSIS

In the lush, tropical world of Martinique where slavery is a distant memory and voodoo holds sway, Emilie Dujon discovers that her fiancé, a rich sugar planter, is unfaithful. Desperate to leave him, she elicits the aid of a voodoo witch doctor and is lured into a shadowy world of black magic and extortion. When the volcano known as Mount Pelée begins to rumble and spew ash, she joins a scientific committee sent to investigate the crater. During the journey she meets Lt. Denis Rémy, an army officer with a mysterious past with whom she forms an unlikely attachment.
During the journey, the committee discovers that Mount Pelée is on the verge of eruption. When they try to warn the governor, he orders them to bury the evidence for fear of upsetting the upcoming election. As the pressure builds, a deadly mudslide inundates Emilie’s plantation and she disappears. Lt. Rémy deserts his post and sets off on a desperate quest to rescue Emilie. But with all roads blocked, can the lovers escape the doomed city of St. Pierre before it’s too late?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Island on Fire_Sophie SchillerSophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews called her “an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer”. Her novel, Island on Fire, is a historical novel about the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century, the eruption of Mount Pelee on Martinique. She was educated at American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY. To find our more, please visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter
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