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:

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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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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

***

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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Monet & Oscar: The Essence of Light by Joe Byrd

From the charm of the 1920s to the wonderful characters, fictional and fictionalized, this book shines!

After the end of the first World War, American soldier Oscar Bonhomme awakens in a military hospital. He was being treated for multiple injuries he’d received in action on the battlefields of Meuse-Argonne. His return to consciousness was greeted with the news that his mother had passed away back home in San Francisco. She had been his only parent, a free spirit, who’d rubbed elbows in France in her younger days with those who would later be known as the core artists of the Impressionist movement. She’d returned to San Francisco and supported herself and her son as a successful landscape designer but had never been able to tell Oscar who his father was, just that he was one of the artists.  

With no one else waiting for him there, he decides to remain in France to recuperate further. Through the intervention of a friend he’d made in the hospital, the famous Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, hires him to care for his gardens and assist with setting up his equipment when he paints and then as a traveling companion. With a career in landscape design like his mother in his sights, Oscar jumps at the chance to see and learn about the famous gardens and learn from Monet about his fellow painters and discover which one is his father.

A mix of actual and fictional characters, Monet & Oscar: The Essence of Light by author, Joe Byrd, is a satisfying page-turner of a story. The easy-to-read writing style allowed the story to flow, and I was immediately caught up in its current. I could feel the sun as it shone on the pond in Monet’s garden at the various times of the day with the wonderful descriptions that added so much without ever bogging things down.

In addition to the comfort and immersion in the settings, I loved the characters. Most specifically, I was charmed by the main character, Oscar, he was so earnest and well-meaning, and he had this little touch of naiveté that really made me like him. The author did a great job creating the character of Isabelle. She was fun and feminine and evocative of the roaring 20s. Their romance is absorbing and nail-biting. Also, Monet’s large, close-knit family was great. I enjoyed ‘meeting’ them and experiencing their interactions with the elder Monet as his eyesight is going and his physical strength is starting to fail, with Oscar, who they immediately seem to make one of their own (without knowing about his search for his father), and Isabelle, too, when she enters the picture.

MONET & OSCAR is a wonderful historical fiction novel with mystery, romance, and adventure. There were twists and surprises throughout that kept the story moving and me turning the pages. I recommend this book for readers of historical fiction, those who would enjoy a satisfying tale featuring one of the greatest Impressionist artists, and even someone who would love to experience this time and place in France without leaving home to do so.

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

Joe Byrd

on Tour May 3-28 with Monet & Oscar  

Monet & Oscar: Essence Of Light

(historical fiction) Official release date: May 1st, 2021 at Giverny Books 300 pages Goodreads 📚📚📚 BUY THE BOOK HERE ***

SYNOPSIS

At the end of WWI, Oscar, an American soldier in a French Army hospital, learned of his mother’s death while recovering from his war wounds. He remained in France to search for his father, an Impressionist painter, whose identity his mother never revealed. Through curious circumstances, he’s hired to be a gardener for Claude Monet. Oscar jumped at the opportunity to further his landscaping career by working in Monet’s world-famous garden at Giverny. He hoped the most renowned Impressionist could help him find his father.

Monet, tired and disheartened by his ailing health and deteriorating eyesight, took Oscar along on visits to his previous painting venues and allowed him to meet some of his art-world friends. These meetings provided insights into Monet’s life and art and clues to Oscar’s father’s identity.

On a train returning from Paris to Giverny, Oscar met and fell in love with Isabelle, a beautiful young American artist, who introduced him to the emerging 1920’s fashions and mores. She is the daughter of one of Monet’s major American clients, which interests him. Over Monet’s daughters’ objections, Isabelle and Oscar become regular guests at family gatherings as their infatuation blossoms into a unique love affair. Oscar’s past, present, and future collide in a way that he could not have anticipated.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Monet and Oscar_Joe ByrdJoe Byrd‘s BS in Journalism and MA in Communications degrees inspired him to become a pioneer in electronic publishing. As a McGraw-Hill editor, he developed one of the first computer publishing systems. In the rapidly developing PC software industry, he co-authored one of his two books using PC desktop publishing software, the first for a major publishing house. He developed the first technical support website in the software industry. In his fifty-year career, he published magazines, wrote research reports, and developed conferences in the US and Europe for the digital photography industry. He launched one of the first digital photography dot coms. This is his first novel. To find our more, please visit his website, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
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The Incomplete Artist (Ashley Westgard, #2) by Philip Wyeth

Ash exchanges silver high heels for a silver detective’s shield when her date at an art auction turns into a baffling murder investigation.

Dressed to the nines, Homicide Detective Ashley Westgard of the Jacksonville Police Corps is off-duty and enjoying an elegant first date with her newest romantic interest, wealthy patron of the arts, Thomas Templeton. She had met Tommy the week before while attending a tedious but high-profile law enforcement charity event at the invitation of the JPC’s top brass. She had seemed to have found a kindred spirit among the city’s upper crust at the event’s open bar. When he hadn’t fallen at her feet in adoration and lust as most other men did, she was intrigued.

For this initial outing, Ash found herself once again on his turf, rubbing elbows with his friends and acquaintances at the exclusive Muir Gallery. The event, hosted by the Movement 24 artistic school, was to be an evening of cocktails and conversation, culminating in an art auction of works by M-24 members. Since the revolution of 2024, more and more human activities had been relinquished to robots, including art. Movement 24 supported art created solely by human hands without the use of robots, and, naturally, there were strong opinions on both sides of the argument.

When the auction begins, the bidding quickly becomes competitive and heated with winners and losers both in the audience and among the artists. Pieces go for an eye-popping number of credits, and even Ash’s date scores the win of a sculpture he’d admired that evening. But when M-24’s most celebrated artist and vocal proponents is found murdered, Ash must exchange her strappy silver high heels for her silver detective’s shield and take control of the crime scene: one with over a hundred potential suspects.

The Incomplete Artist is author Philip Wyeth’s 2nd novel in his Ashley Westgard futuristic police detective series that debuted in 2020. In this entry, Ash has been taken out of her comfort zone of knocking heads and taking names and dropped into the realm of this future world’s high-fliers and social scions of the burgeoning Jacksonville art scene. She’s also the hopeful pursuer in her current relationship rather than the pursued. All of which leads to some introspection on her part about what she really wants out of life.

She remains justifiably suspicious of the motives of the JPC administration after the successful resolution of the case in book one. Still, I was glad to see her relationship with her immediate boss, Chief of Detectives Gabriela Paraquez, strengthen and perhaps start to solidify into something she can trust. Paraquez steps back and allows Ash to manage the complicated crime scene on her own. I liked her interactions with her other coworkers, too, as she conducted her investigation.

The murder case is baffling, with a massive number of potential suspects and witnesses on the scene when the victim is discovered. I felt how insurmountable the task of just securing the crime scene would have been, considering the number of attendees and the complication of everyone being part of the perceived elite and those that left the event before the discovery was made.

This story is quite different from the previous one. While in that one, Ash’s introduction was virtually a “smash and grab” of the reader, the tone of this story is more cerebral and thought-provoking. Ash’s investigation is also a journey through the philosophy of art with characters discussing its history and motivations, its wants and needs, past, present, and future.

The hard-riding, hard-driving, hard-drinking, and hard-partying Ashley Westgard from the debut novel has been set down among the rich and richer and is clearly out of her element. She is somewhat dazzled and seduced by these unfamiliar surroundings, almost hooked and feeling uncertain and off-kilter. And Thomas Templeton seems to be the perfect foil for Ash: their banter is delicious. But the work itself has its own magic for Ash, and she kicks the glamour to the curb and gets back to business, which is where the book shines – a character-driven, police procedural in a futuristic society.

I recommend The Incomplete Artist to those who enjoyed Ash’s debut story in Hot Ash and the Oasis Defect, readers who would like a mystery set in the world of art or with a futuristic setting.

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

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Engage at Dawn: Seize and Destroy (Engage at Dawn, #2) by Edward M. Hochsmann

Once, again the US Coast Guard Cutter Kauai and her crew is called upon to save the day, and perhaps this time, even the planet itself.

When the sentry-survey vessel observing the developing planet 331-3 (Earth) finally headed to the nearest Confed maintenance base for repairs, other observers with less honorable intentions schemed to take advantage of its absence to grab up now available resources that could easily be turned for a profit.

The crew of the sentry vessel had included in the incident report of their unscheduled stop on the planet that during their initial arrival, they had inadvertently destroyed the sea-going ship of a criminal organization involved in the smuggling of cocaine. That small mention is what had caught the eye of the unscrupulous Raviktos, the Chief Operating Executive of Kmaet’aqe, one of the largest corporations in the Confederation of the Six Systems. He could make a profit from cocaine, but it had to be done quickly and in just the right manner, for discovery by Confed could result in the ultimate of penalties.

Things go perfectly at first, but when a rival drug gang gets involved, they take the planetside alien representatives hostage along with some highly critical advanced technology. Raviktos’ illegal operations are revealed to those tasked with looking for just this type of thing. Once again, the crew of the USCG Cutter Kauai is called upon to save the day, perhaps even the planet.

Engage at Dawn: Seize and Destroy is the second full-length book in author Edward M. Hochsmann’s thrilling SciFi action-adventure series, Engage at Dawn. I was delighted to be ‘reunited’ with the Kauai’s crew, catch up with returning characters, and get to know some new favorites. One of the many things that this author does well is write great dialogue. I laughed out loud several times during exchanges between characters.

I liked that the author populated his story with a wide range and variety of crew members: male and female, married and single, differing ages, races, cultures, experiences, grades, and even branches of service! Like any working group or family, they don’t always see eye-to-eye and have their disputes and disagreements. But together, they work out their differences in the background to continue to perform as a highly professional and well-coordinated entity. (And I always learn something new when reading the adventures of these crew members.)

A new aspect to this series that appears in this book is the developing romantic relationship between the Kauai’s XO, Lieutenant Benjamin Wyporek and the Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Dr. Victoria Carpenter. Their story provided some sweet, tender, and anxious moments.

The romance, however, is a subplot. The major focus of the story is the thrilling action and adventure of Kauai’s mission to take possession of the captured alien technology. Once the Kauai is underway, the action is non-stop, and things get intense! Operations on board the Kauai ring true to life and made my engagement in the story that much stronger. This was hold-your-breath, edge-of-your-seat stuff! Hochsmann’s action sequences are superb, making Seize and Destroy downright great entertainment.

Although this novel could easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone, it would be a shame for the reader to miss out on the excellent first book in the series, Engage at Dawn: First Contact. I recommend this book and series to readers that enjoy military SciFi action-adventure stories, military romances, or fictional stories featuring the United States Coast Guard.

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

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Russian Brides (Sammy Greyfox Thriller, #1) by Hugh Macnab

Homicide detective Sammy Greyfox is having a bad day, correction, SEVERAL bad days. But that doesn’t stop her from getting the job done!

Sammy Greyfox is a Native American homicide detective working for the county sheriff’s department headquartered in Naples, Florida. On her way to work one morning, she witnesses the deliberate attempt of a hit-and-run of another young native woman as she leaves the local diner, knocking her out of the way at the very last minute.

Handing the incident off to the officer on the beat, Sammy continues to the office, where she catches the case of accidental death that the medical examiner believes to be a murder in disguise. In the early hours of the morning, the much younger wife of wealthy Jon Watson called 911 to report that she’d woken to find her husband lying unresponsive at the foot of the flight of stairs from the second down to the first floor in their lavish Gulf front home. The initial onsite determination of the cause of death was a broken neck due to the fall; however, after closer examination, the medical examiner can see fingerprints on the man’s neck, and the location of the break between the C3 and C4 vertebrae would be unlikely under the particular circumstances. Suspecting foul play and recalling similar accidental deaths, he discovers at least four other cases within the county over the past three years where the neck had been broken in the very same way and contacts Sammy.

As Sammy begins to investigate, a further similarity among the cases comes to light; all the questionable deaths were of older, wealthy men married to much younger women they met in Eastern European countries such as Russia or Ukraine. When Sammy starts asking questions, she finds herself the target of a hit-and-run driver, too. Someone wants Sammy to give up her investigation, but she’s determined to get to the truth, and the more she finds out, the bigger and more complicated the entire thing becomes.

Russian Brides was an interesting and enjoyable police procedural that introduces the reader to a new detective series featuring ‘Sun and Moon’ Greyfox, AKA Samantha Greyfox. I was hooked by her story from the opening page and would have read through to the very last in one sitting if I could have gotten away with it. The story was that absorbing, and the various mysteries are solid, some with surprising resolutions that I never saw coming.

Besides the intriguing murder investigation, Sammy is experiencing personal upheavals as well, and all require some truly life-altering decisions. This woman is definitely having a BAD DAY: several bad days, in fact. However, she is strong, persistent, and smart, and she does have some good friends among her coworkers on whom she can lean when she needs a sounding board or a shoulder or a strong helping hand. And I wholeheartedly went on that ride with her as she tried to work through her various dilemmas. Readers are privy to Sammy’s internal dialogue, and it is, as appropriate, delightful, funny, entertaining, and poignant. The author has some other fun, quirky aspects worked in throughout the story that made me smile, such as her Alexa playlist used as her wake-up alarm, her relationship with her cars, and Bossy-boots.

However, my enjoyment of the book was absolutely and negatively impacted by the execution of the work and is the reason for my mid-scale rating. The story is rife with typos, changes in tense, incorrect choices between homophones (there, they’re, their, to, too), and incorrect use of apostrophes. Characters change first names or surnames: Marlene became Mellissa, Pinho became Pino. (And I wondered the entire book if the character from Brazil, Hosé, was supposed to be spelled José, the most popular boys’ name in that country.) These are all things that an editor would catch, identify, and have corrected before publication, and I am hoping that I was working from an unedited copy.

Despite the issues I had with this book, I am looking forward with great anticipation to the promised sequels, and if a reader is not bothered by these types of problems, then I say grab this book and enjoy. But I recommend this book, with reservations, for those who would enjoy a police procedural with an exceptionally engaging lead detective. This story was well worth reading.

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

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The Elephant Cage by Brooks Powell

With its mid-1970s setting in Turkey, there is a really good story here, but I felt like I only got glimpses of it.

It’s 1973, and Airman George Pearson reports to his new assignment after completing the USAF School of Cryptologic Sciences: Karamursel Air Base, Turkey. Located a couple of hours outside of Istanbul on the coast of the Maramara Sea, Karamursel is an air base without planes or a runway. It is the location of “The Elephant Cage,” one of the largest and most sophisticated listening stations operated by the United States. To George Pearson, it will be “home” for the next 18 months, and it is strange and dirty and hot.

George’s work assignment is to listen in on radio traffic from the Soviet Union to collect and record military intel. It comes with a demanding, exhaustive work schedule, secret clearance, and a lot of stress. Many airmen relieve their stress with sex, drugs, or loud rock and roll; George indulges in all three. George is especially known for being a ladies’ man, but only a week before arriving at his new duty station, George married his high school prom date, Natalie, and she will be coming to join him in-country in a few months.

With the drugs and their effect on his work habits and attitude, things quickly go sideways when his new wife arrives. To compound his problems, he gets on his commanding officer’s bad side despite being one of the best at his job (but not his military appearance and hygiene). But when one of his circle of friends gets arrested by the Turkish police for possession of a large quantity of hashish, things really go south. In Turkey, possession and participation in drug trafficking draw the worst consequences, and now, instead of a possible court-martial, George and his friends could end up facing a death sentence.

The Elephant Cage is a short historical fiction novel by debut author Brooks Powell. The mid-1970s time period and its Turkish setting were interesting, fresh, and immediately drew me in. I liked the mix of the fictional George’s story with the events that were going on in Turkey, Cyprus, and the U.S. political scene at that time. I just couldn’t connect with George, though. For one thing, his frequent references to his penis and the current state of its arousal were off-putting to me. He and the other characters work in an intriguing setting, and it felt like very little time was spent on this aspect of the plot. However, I thought that the commanding officer’s resolution for the drug arrest was exciting and one of the book’s best parts.

The author provides a lengthy timeline at the end of the book that contains the historical background to the events current to the story’s time. However, it (and consequently its readers) would benefit from some pruning and clean-up to remove many repetitive entries, especially those that are exact duplicates of others. Even if the author just paraphrased the relevant bits, this would prove more useful and interesting (because it is interesting!)

I recommend The Elephant Cage, but with reservations. There is a really good story here, but I feel like I only got glimpses of it. I urge the author to dive back in on this one, expand the story, and give us more of the good stuff.

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

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Madeleine: Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans by Wanda Maureen Miller

The satisfying story of Madeleine, one of the filles a la casquette and a forgotten French policy to colonize the wilderness known as Louisiana.

When the master of the de Mandeville chateau began to take an inappropriate interest in his wife’s ladies’ maid, 17-year-old Madeleine Boucher finds herself enrolled in the French government’s program to provide suitable females as potential brides for their pioneering countrymen in their Louisiana colony. Madeleine is accepting of this fate; it is a chance for her to have a future in a new world far from the shadow of poverty and her early life as the daughter of a serf on the de Mandeville estate, a chance to be her own person and no one’s servant ever again. Along with 59 other filles a la casquette, she’s provided with a trunk (casquette) of household basics with which to start her married life with whomever she chooses as her husband.  The girls with their chaperones, Ursuline nuns traveling to their convent in New Orleans, board Les Belles Soeurs, the ship which is to be their home for the next 3 – 4 months as they make the long journey by sea from France to the Port of New Orleans. They endure cold, heat, storms, sickness, diminishing food supplies, and the constant threat of pirates along the way.

Through no fault of her own, the lovely Madeleine is mistakenly identified on the ship’s roster as a member of the de Mandeville family rather than from the de Mandeville chateau. However, she doesn’t correct the error, hoping to prevent others from treating her like a mere servant. But rather than acting like a fragile flower from an aristocratic family, Madeleine pitches in to pull her own weight and help out any way possible, all the while keeping a cool head under the considerable stress of the ocean crossing. She catches the eye of the ship’s captain, Jean Paul Beauchamp, and although there is an immediate and mutual attraction between the two, they manage to maintain the utmost decorum and respect for each other. On their last night aboard ship before debarking for the final journey upriver to New Orleans, Captain Beauchamp admits to Madeleine that despite his deep regard, his life will always be the sea.

When the girls finally arrive safe and sound in New Orleans, they are dismayed by the rough, crude conditions. Still, the warm and friendly welcome from the colonists lifts their spirits and soothes their disillusionment. They are soon showered with marriage proposals from men of all manner of background, circumstance, and situation. Madeleine is attracted to a young French army lieutenant, Jacques Bouligny, the younger son of an aristocratic family back in France. Jacques, in turn, is just as enamored of her but is away from New Orleans more than not quelling the rising turmoil among the Indian tribes inhabiting the Louisiana territory.

One by one, all the casquette girls except Madeleine make their selection of a husband and leave to start their new lives. She chooses to stay with the Ursuline sisters, assisting in their hospital and school for girls as she waits for Jacques to declare himself or Captain Beauchamp to return, having changed his mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new story of Madeleine and the filles a la casquette, set in the early 1700s in the wilds of southern Louisiana. It was an interesting and adventurous historical fiction novel laced with an irresistible romance. The heroine brought to mind Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Emma Harte from A Woman of Substance or Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara (without the negative personality traits.) I read with anticipation of the resolution of Madeleine’s romantic relationships. Would things work out for her and Jacques, or would Jean Paul come back into the picture? I thought the plotline involving the Natchez exciting yet troubling. The tension of this situation was always hovering in the background. The same can be said regarding the reality of slavery.  The characters of Moses, Rima, Lying Boy, Laff, and Lame Doe were some of my favorites, and I enjoyed their presence in the story. I hope to see more of them in the next book.

As the story covers almost 25 years, there is plenty of action during that time frame; there was never a dull moment in the book. This one kept me up reading way past a decent bedtime.

I recommend MADELEINE: LAST FRENCH CASQUETTE BRIDE IN NEW ORLEANS to readers that enjoy historical fiction with a romantic storyline or those that would like a story about a forgotten French policy (filles a la casquette) in the history of Louisiana and New Orleans. This story contains details related to sexual relations and is better suited to a more mature audience. I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through France Book Tours.

Wanda Maureen Miller

on Tour April 12-16 with Madeleine Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans    

Madeleine: Last French Casquette Bride In New Orleans

(historical fiction/romance) Release date: April 1st, 2021 at Atmosphere Press 272 pages Goodreads 📚📚📚

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SYNOPSIS

In 1728, beautiful, resourceful Madeleine Boucher is one of the last in a group of poor young girls given modest dowries in trunks, or casquettes, by the French government—then shipped off to America, where they are intended as wives for the French settlers in the Louisiana Territory. Despite a series of romantic travails, Madeleine remains dedicated to finding passion and securing the promise of her new adopted land, free from prejudices of the past.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans_Wanda Maureen MillerWanda Maureen Miller (or Mo) grew up on an Arkansas farm in the 1940s and 1950s, got educated, moved to California, and taught college English. She has published six books —a historical romance, The French (1983); three textbooks, Reading Faster and Understanding More, Books 1, 2, and 3 (5 editions, 1976 to 2001); her slightly fictionalized memoir, Last Trip Home (2018); and now Book 1: Madeleine, Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans. Retired, she plays pickle-ball and is working on Book 2: Solange, Daughter of Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans. To find our more, please visit her website, and follow her on Facebook Visit the publisher, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter
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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical fiction, Romance