Review of “Conspiracy of Ravens: Raven Crawford Book 1” – J. C. McKenzie

Raven Crawford knows better than to venture into the seductive world of the dark fae or agree to any of their salacious promises. She plans to pay off her debts so she can get on with her life and stay far away from the denizens of the Underworld.

Unfortunately, her numbskull twin steals from the most tempting and lethal fae of them all. Now, Raven must help the Lord of Shadows get back what her idiot brother stole. Her only weapons? Just a little ingenuity and a whole lot of snark. It’s suicide for sure, but she’ll do anything to protect her twin.

 

 

Shadows encased them. Her scalp prickled as if someone reached out and gripped her head with giant fingers. Raven twisted around to find a large figure blocking out the moonlight.

“You!” she hissed.

“Move.” Cole’s deep voice punctured the quiet forest and silenced Mike’s whimpering.

Before she could demand answers, Cole flowed forward, gathered them both in his arms and pushed them into the darkness of the trees. A shadowy film settled over them, much like the dark cloak when Cole had pulled her into the shadows at Bear’s apartment.

A branch snapped down the deer trail to the right.

Cold settled over her skin.

Moments later another large, looming figure entered the clearing. Luke. Again. She couldn’t lose these two dark fae. They kept hopping back into her life like rabid fleas.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

Conspiracy of Ravens is by far my favorite J.C. McKenzie novel

I loved how she didn’t limit herself to stereotypical shifting scenarios. Human body to ONE particular animal… No, not for JCM. JCM didn’t limit any character’s power, and the story was better for it. 

Mystery.

Passion. 

Love.

Anger.

Humor. 

Danger.

Magic.

Deception.

Heartache. 

Surprises. 

Plot twists.

You’ll find all the above in Conspiracy of RavensYou’ll also find yourself eagerly grabbing for book 2 in the series, Nevermore

Special note to the author: I love how Raven curses. “Odin’s scrotum!” 😀

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score:  ❤❤❤❤1/2

 

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J.C. McKenzie is a book-loving, gumboot-wearing, unapologetic science geek. She’s the author of the Carus Series, an urban fantasy five-book saga published by the Wild Rose Press. Born and raised on the West Coast, J. C. sets the majority of her books in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance with sassy heroines and brutish, alpha-type men.

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Review of “Dreams Of Lake Drukka & Exhumation” – Mike Thorn

Dreams of Lake Drukka and Exhumation explore the unearthing of horrific, long-buried family secrets. Journeying into the darkest recesses of the past, these stories depict the dire consequences of discovering the truth.

Writing about Dreams Of Lake Drukka and Exhumation, author Mike Thorn said: “It was only in retrospect that I could see the connections between these two stories. When I revisited them for publication, it struck me that they work well as companion pieces. Both plots depict unfulfilled pacts with supernatural undercurrents, both include journeys to uncover unresolved familial trauma, and both pivot around the revelation of repressed memories. I wanted to explore the relationship between setting and atmosphere in these pieces, and to depict horror within internal and physical ‘sites of trauma.’ The characters are grappling with painful memories / experiences that have held them back, consciously or unconsciously. One story focuses on a character who is the agent of her own revelations, whereas the other story sees someone whose agency is quickly and brutally taken away.”

(Cover by Adrian Baldwin)

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

Dreams Of Lake Drukka:

For a while, I was wondering when the horror would begin in Dreams Of Lake Drukka. For a couple dozen or so pages, it was mostly sisterly squabbles. Basically, arguments many siblings have or had partaken in a time or two (or more). It wasn’t until Jeannette and Sharla crossed over the fence leading to Lake Drukka when things finally started to look up. Well, for us horror readers it did…not so much for these two gals or their daddy.

The terror-filled moments starring the phantom were spooky in written form. However, it would downright terrify viewers in 2 or 3D. This would be one of those movies you’ll be screaming at the screen, “Run, chick, run!!!!”

Since my mind tends to operate like a movie projector, I can visualize it in 2D.

First ½ of the Dreams Of Lake Drukka: 2 hearts (stars)

Last ½ of the story: 4 and1/2 hearts (stars)

Overall score: 3 and 1/2 hearts (stars)

 

Exhumation:

Exhumation started off creepy, progressed to F***ed up and stayed firmly in that position until the very end.

From the start, Norm proved to be a strange character but I had no idea how quickly things would go from strange to I WANT TO HURL!

If you like creepy, weird, and/or grotesque scenes then you must read Exhumation.

Score on this story alone: 4 ½ hearts (stars)

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Overall Score:❤❤❤❤

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Mike Thorn is the author of Darkest Hours and Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Dark Moon DigestThe NoSleep PodcastTurn to Ash and Tales to Terrify. His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film StageThe Seventh RowBright Lights Film Journal and Vague Visages. He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Visit his WEBSITE, connect with him on TWITTER and follow him on GOODREADS.
 
 

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Review of “The Shop Before Life” – Neil Hughes

After two happy centuries in the prelife, Faythe is battling the most dangerous human emotion. She’s bored.

But when she accepts a once-in-a-prelifetime opportunity to become Apprentice at the magical Shop Before Life, her days become dreadfully interesting.

Now she helps customers with the most important choice they’ll ever make: who to become in the afterprelife–or “life”, for short. Will they be born on Earth with MATHEMATICAL GIFTS? Or perhaps they’d prefer DELIGHTED BY CATS?

But Faythe has questions of her own. Like–what exactly is in these jars of human traits? And who is the mysterious Supplier who creates them?

Unfortunately, these questions could awaken an ancient conflict and even destroy the Shop itself. They should maybe mention that sort of thing during orientation.

Management are going to be furious, but their divine punishment must wait. Right now, Faythe needs to discover the secrets of the Shop in order to save it.

If she fails, nobody will become themselves ever again . . .

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

Life is a fickle b!tch. People are born. People live. People die.

People speculate what comes after death. Some people believe there’s a heaven and hell. While others stand firm in the knowledge, nothing is awaiting us in the afterlife. With all the discussion on the after, people rarely speak of the before. This is where The Shop Before Life became very interesting to me.

Whether you have faith in a higher being or not, this story will get you thinking. I can’t disclose the bombshell Faythe discovered when she met Management; however, I will briefly talk about the shop and the jars of traits.

 

Every possible trait was available to those who entered the shop.

1.) Grab a basket and browse the numerous aisles.

2.) See something you like, add it to your basket.

3.) Once you fill your basket and can’t carry anymore, head to checkout.

4.) Now, you are all set to journey to Earth and be born.

 

Sounds simple, right?! Ah, the simplest ideas and jobs often prove most challenging.

Have you ever been to the store and the shelves haven’t been restocked yet?

Something you want is out of stock?

Maybe your favorite store closed down?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then how upset did you become?

The people of prelife reacted in the same manner you’d expect a living, breathing person to behave. Yup, they went off the rails.

Life on Earth was affected because of the events happening in and around the shop.  I won’t say how though. (No Spoilers)

 

I encourage everyone to read this story. It’s highly entertaining, thought-provoking, and the perfect book for many age groups.

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score:❤❤❤❤

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As well as The Shop Before Life, Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a hilarious and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he spends his time on humorous talks about mental health, standup comedy, physics, computer programming, and everything from music, video games, languages and pub quizzes. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you said hello at enhughesiasm.com

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Author Showcase – Jeffrey L. Kohanek (Fate of Wizardoms series)

~~ Book One ~~


In a realm where wizards rule, the ambitious contend for thrones that grant the power of a god. How can one defeat a god?

Jerrell Landish is a thief, clever, creative, and conniving to the extreme. His legendary exploits force him to use the name Jace just to remain inconspicuous. When he accepts a contract to acquire a secret, enchanted amulet, he discovers the item has already been stolen. To satisfy the leader of the Thieves’ Guild, he must track down the amulet and complete the ultimate objective:

Assassinate Wizard Lord Taladain, a man with the power of a god.

Rhoa is an acrobat, diminutive, agile, and daring. Armed with the Eye of Obscurance, she sets out to accomplish the unthinkable. Haunted by a troubled past, she cannot escape a single, all-consuming desire.

She would risk anything to see Lord Taladain dead. 

Taladain’s daughter, Narine, is a princess who recently graduated as a master wizardess. However, her father and brother seek nothing but power – one would use her to strengthen his position, the other views her as a threat to his future. 

Can she navigate troubled waters with danger lurking at every turn?

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~~ Book Two ~~

Ruthless wizards vie for a vacant throne, unaware that their actions could alter the balance of magic and the fate of the Eight Wizardoms. 

Lord Taladain is dead, the result of an exotic scheme made possible by the Eye of Obscurance, an amulet so dangerous, simply knowing it exists can bring grave danger. What if the amulet fall into the wrong hands?

With a neighboring wizardom in chaos, Wizard Lord Malvorian seeks to expand his power, capturing prayers meant for another wizard lord and strengthening his magic beyond anything ever recorded. The world will tremble should Malvorian’s power rise to that of two gods. 

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~~ Book Three ~~

Thrones lie vacant while a power-thirsty wizard lord seeks world domination.

Monsters from legend stalk the land, terrorizing the Eight Wizardoms.

The future becomes obscured from the Seers of Kelmar, the secluded sect of mystics chartered to prevent the end of the world.

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FREE AUDIOBOOK!
Legend of Shadowmar is a companion tale to the Fate of Wizardoms series, featuring Jerrell Landish before the theif
became a legend. Stream or download this 1.75-hour adventure to get a sense of the world of Wizardoms and the brilliance of narrator Travis Baldree. 

 

 

Discover a legend in the making. Jerrell Landish, the greatest thief in the eight wizardoms.When presented with the opporunity of a lifetime, young and arrogant Jerrell Landish cannot refuse. Teamed with a renowned warrior, he embarks on a quest hundreds have attempted. None returned.

His quest: Locate a legendary castle, defeat the guardian protecting it, and obtain the treasure hidden there.
If only he understood what lurked in the castle ruins.If only he understood the dangerous nature of the treasure he sought to claim.

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Author Showcase – Gabrielle Olexa (Jenny of Lebanon)

All’s quiet at 318 White Ash Lane—which is good. Billy could use some quiet. He’s got enough trouble paying off his bills, keeping his cat fed and healing the ribs he bruised in a wreck with a Honda. 

But maybe this is just a bump in the road. Maybe all he needs is a few weeks to heal up before he gets his life back on track. Fate, though, has another plan for Billy. That plan’s name is Jenny, and she hits a lot harder than a Honda.

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“You know,” Jenny remarked, pausing in front of one the pictures hanging on the wall, “even as a kid you didn’t show your teeth when you smiled.”

“I’ve never liked my smile or my teeth,” Billy answered, not bothering to look back at Jenny. “Besides, it distorts your face.”

“Who says that?”

“I can’t remember. Maybe it was the FBI or DMV. Whoever it was, they encouraged people not to smile,” Billy said entering the kitchen. “It was in the paper.”

He hit the light switch next to the door and the bulb hanging from the ceiling crackled as it exploded in a fiery light. A final tinge of red glowed through the clear glass for a second, then blinked out of existence.

“Is there anything in this house that works or isn’t dead?” Jenny asked as she pulled out a chair from underneath the brown card table that sat in the corner.

She flipped it around and straddled it.

“Hey,” Billy snapped, snatching a chair from the other side of the table, “I’ve done the best I can.” He placed the chair beneath the burnt-out bulb and turned to the pantry. He flung the door open and peered inside.

“You know,” Jenny said, leaning the chair forward on its back legs, “when you’re angry, there’s this vein on your forehead that sorta bulges and pulses. It makes you look like a villain from a comic book, but of course not nearly as menacing.”

Billy turned his head slowly, mechanically, like an animatronic dummy, and glared. In the faint light, his eyes were completely dilated and the edges of his blue irises seemed nonexistent.

“You’re such a smart-ass,” Billy muttered.

“I know,” she replied with a smile, “that’s what your dad always told me.”

The legs of her chair wavered above the tan linoleum floor as she rocked back and forth. Her arms were propped up on the metal backing and her hands rested beneath her chin. She was framed in a moment of innocence, like all those kids you see posing for some excessively happy, underpaid mall associate—except there was no holiday propaganda strategically hung behind her. Instead, there was just a dirty window and a stream of stale sunlight. 

“My dad was right,” Billy said. His gaze dropped to the floor, but he quickly regained eye contact. “He was right about a lot of things. Especially about you.”

 

 

Gabrielle Olexa was born and raised in the land of the Atlanta Braves but now lives in Charlotte, NC with her perfect husband, Phil, and their son, Ash. Meili, the most expensive and primitive Shiba Inu in the known universe, that they adopted while they lived in Shanghai, China, lives with them, too.

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