Murtairean: An Assassin’s Tale (Dal Cruinne Series Book One) by Jenn Lees is a fantasy story set in a medieval society with lords at war for power. Vygeas, a former assassin with the gift of heightened senses and perception, is locked in a cell in Lord Ciaran’s dungeon. Charged with desertion when he refused to kill innocents, Vygeas now faces hanging. But he is offered a stay of execution and a chance to win his freedom if he completes one final task–to kill a corrupt merchant on the Isle of Eilean. On the road to Eilean, Vygeas meets Leyna, a woman searching for the assassin who killed her parents. She is intent on exacting revenge. But when their convictions are tested, will either Vygeas or Leyna succeed in their aims?
Murtairean: An Assassin’s Tale is filled with intrigue and treachery, drawing me in from the very first page. The author’s descriptions of the setting and people painted a vivid picture of the story in my mind. I suspected early on in the story that Vygeas was the assassin who had killed Leyna’s parents, and I was interested to find out how she would react when she finally learned the truth. I don’t want to give away too much, but things are not what you expect. Leyna’s feelings are understandably confused, especially since she has come to like Vygeas and he has shown himself to be a good man deceived by lies.
Both Leyna and Vygeas are likable and sympathetic characters even though they have done bad things in their pasts and continue to walk a dark path. I enjoyed reading the interactions between Vygeas and Aiden, and the touches of humor that it added to the story.
But there were a few places where I would have liked more detail in order to fully understand the characters’ motivations. When Vygeas killed Elyse he did so because of Drostan’s threat to make her suffer a life worse than death. But I didn’t think there was enough details given to make it feel as though such a drastic action by Vygeas was truly justified. Why was he convinced that Drostan would follow through? I felt that it should have been elaborated on so that it was clear why Vygeas felt that he had no other choice. And it was never really explained why Drostan seemed to bear a personal grudge against Vygeas. Also, why would Lord Cairan bother with such as elaborate ruse to eliminate Vygeas when he could have just killed Vygeas outright? Needless to say, I was invested in the story.
The story ends on a happy-ish note, but Lord Ciaran is still a threat who must be stopped. The mention of dragons in the epilogue intrigued me. The series is definitely one I’m interested on continuing because of the intriguing characters and enthralling world.
Pages: 139 | ASIN: B07ZWQMZ4W
The Lost Signal by J.S. Fernandez is a science fiction novel that explores the reality of our planet and the myth of creation. Aeons ago, the Creators had arrived on Earth and established two races: the humans and the Urukulu. The humans were to be kept subservient under the Urukulu so that the Creators could tend to their commercial mining needs on Earth. Naturally, this greedy scheme was banned by the intergalactic Federation. However, the Creators have found nefarious ways to infiltrate and exploit Earth again. Fiona is the lady in charge who has taken it upon herself to keep these creatures away for good. She enlists the help of her close friends and allies, fighting her personal demons on an already uphill battle.
The Lost Signal is fast paced without being rushed. Right from the beginning we are thrown into the middle of action. The characters are introduced in an almost Whack-a-Mole fashion, displaying flashes of their personality and the place they occupy in this world. I loved Fiona’s character fight from the introduction. She is teased about her supposed tomboyishness while she struggles with her attraction towards her close friend, Ralph. While her life isn’t particularly easy, it was admirable the way she buckled down on her principles in order to do what was right. Despite the dark and depressing premise, the lead characters were kept respectable without seeming to be on a pedestal.
Similarly, the antagonists were kept interesting without losing their believability. In this era, it’s hardly difficult to imagine a corporation doing their absolute best to achieve profit maximization. Hence, the menace of the Creators was real without seeming preachy. The physicality and characterization of the aliens also left a chill down my spine.
In certain places, the novel reminded me of a Jeffrey Archer novel. I think this was because the amount of real world-like politics involved combined with its fast pace. All of the perspectives were totally human, without verging on too scientific or political. The Lost Signal is a thrilling ride from start to finish. It is a great choice for anyone looking for a creative depiction of today’s world, offering just the right amount of escapism but remaining grounded in reality.
Pages: 454 | ASIN: B07X9147K1
The Modronovich Incident by RL Dean is a sci-fi mystery set in outer space and told from the perspective of Beatrice, a pilot and wreck driver. She is tipped off about a mysterious case in which the Modronovich, a cargo ship testing an advanced Newtonian drive, went missing. Bea is intrigued by this case and pulls some strings to get a crew on board so that she can take a deep dive to find it. However, after facing endless obstacles and dead ends, she is forced to give it up. Until, a figure central to the case finally appears. Bea is finally able to put together the missing pieces and finds a shocking revelation at the heart of the puzzle.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book- I read it in just a few sittings and found it nearly impossible to put down. Not only are the premise and plot captivating, but the perspective from which it is shown is also perfectly captured. Beatrice is the perfect window into this futuristic world- the secrets, conspiracies, and revelations are portrayed through her eyes. From the first scene itself, RL Dean masterfully creates an air of suspense and tension, without losing me on an overdose of tech jargon.
RL Dean also managed to create strong female characters in powerful positions. They were ready to save the day, irrespective of which situation happened to arise. Their voices were deftly handled for the most part, except for a few questionable allusions to the ‘women love shopping’ trope. Especially Bea, who handled professional trouble and a petulant mother like any real woman do, with exasperation and a determination to bring her life back on track.
Another aspect that I found great joy in were the ‘Harvey Editorial’ snippets at the beginning of each chapter. They offered short insights, dialogue, or debate on the current day affairs of the future. They were funny, quirky, and often harkening back to our very own 21st century. These were everything from a sassy quip on a politician to a gloomy proclamation of the world ending (I guess some things never change).
All in all, this is a rewarding and thrilling read from start to finish, and I would recommend it to everyone.
Pages: 171 | ASIN: B07Z282VB4
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Murder on Spirit Island by Jim Riley is a thrilling murder mystery novel set in Louisiana, following Niki Dupre as she attempts to solve the disappearance of a wealthy businessman, Henry Welker. Gunmen, alligators, and a bigger conspiracy is afoot, Niki uses every bit of her impressive skill and experience to get to the bottom of the situation, all without ending up at the bottom of the Mississippi River. With all of the danger surrounding her, she still makes time for John, a high school flame from many years ago, who gives her the Welker case to start her perilous journey.
Murder on Spirit Island is a very well constructed story, as it kept me guessing at every turn. The chapters are short, and many of them enticed me to keep going. The characters were colorful and easily recognizable, although there was a bit of confusion when initially learning of the group of men that often met on Spirit Island. Other than that, each one has their own personality and style, and each one could be the murderer on the loose.
Niki’s character is one that the reader will want to succeed. She is trying to prove herself in an industry where men typically rule the roost, but she doesn’t let it get in her way. The reader will move through the story with baited breath to see the decisions she makes and how she might manage to escape the next source of danger, no matter who it is. She’ll even flirt with a police officer, if she has to.
The story even has some good comedic aspects. Mr. Riley is certainly a quick-witted individual, and he does well to bring in some lighter points. An early example involves some yoga stretches and an unexpected guest entering Niki’s apartment to an… interesting view.
With these fun moments mixed in, this is a mystery adventure that manages to be entertaining in every aspect. With twists and mis-directions sprinkled throughout, the reader will be itching to learn the truth behind each murder.
Rok was living a great life. He was a detective, something he’d aspired to be since childhood. Even better, he was working each day with one of his oldest friends. His girlfriend was more perfect for him than Rok could have ever imagined. Things were good. Until his stolen laptop is returned in the mail, containing a diary entry dated the following day. Each day brings a new update, eerily predicting events in the next 24 hours. As Rok tries to understand the why, how, and who of the situation, everything in his previously idyllic life is upended and he realizes he no longer knows anything.
720 Heartbeats, by Jaka Tomc is an intriguing mix of noir style detective drama, traditional love story, and mind bending science fiction, in a story that comes full circle before its end. What begins with Rok and his best friend Boris on an assignment soon turns into an unwanted and improbable adventure. When Rok’s laptop mysteriously reappears at home, he finds the journal entry but doesn’t give it too much thought. It isn’t until a couple of days have passed that he realizes it gives an accurate, albeit vague, glimpse into the future and by then, Rok is plagued with questions about how it can happen, and who is writing the diary. Things only get weirder when he decides that the only explanation is that it’s a future version of him, which spurns many discussions with Sara about alternate dimensions, the non-linear nature of time, and whether the decisions of present day Rok can change the outcomes of events for future Rok. To complicate matters further, his professional life becomes muddled when he learns some hard truths about people he thought he could trust. Within a week, and with the return of his laptop, Rok’s entire life changes.
Tomc does a wonderful job with his character’s development and dialogue, namely between Rok and Sara. Their conversations feel sincere, and cover the necessary points of the story without feeling forced. The other characters, while very much important to the plot, nonetheless remain very much in the background. Their interactions are still good, but slightly more flat. The story itself is frequently interrupted by Rok’s inner monologue about the randomness of life, the beauty of love, and various other philosophical musings. Although thought provoking the first few times, these tangents quickly become repetitive and, with a few exceptions, add little to the story. Despite that, the book is truly captivating and unique in the way it weaves genres together.
720 Heartbeats isn’t lengthy, but manages to contain plenty of action and mystery, and I had a hard time putting it down. The subtle implications presented at the end truly screws with your head as you wonder… what just happened?
Pages: 145 | ASIN: B07DS81NZR
Are we defined by the ones who were before us, or do our actions define us? Do the actions of one individual condemn their future descendants to a dire future?
The Progeny is a thrilling adventure story, echoing the suspense of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series. The beginning of the story is a little slow but the story picks up and is quickly entertaining. Things keep on rolling as our lead character, Audra and her small group of people find themselves in situations that quickly turn sour. Despite the frailty shown, the characters rise up to the challenges that face them, which made me emotionally invested in the well drawn characters. I frowned when I read about the zealots who were hunting descendants of the most infamous female serial killer in history. Why? They are not the killers. Why harm them? But then people do tend to carry grouses for years, maybe some are crazy to carry ones that pass on from generation to generation. These thought provoking themes kept me hooked. I especially loved Luka character, who loves Audra without any motives or benefits. The author describes the revelation in layers which is all the more warming to my heart.
There are many more layers to the story than initially appears. It shows the depth with which Tosca Lee has crafted her narrative. Overall the story is well written and continues at a good pace. We get a glimpse into the past of the characters, but thankfully the story does not dedicate too much time on it. The one thing that I did find odd was the persuasion power that every descendant of Elizabeth Bathory (mainly females) seems to have. Why it appears, or what is the reason for it is not explained. Even more curious is that it goes away after a certain age. Why? I need to know! Needless to say, I am invested in this enthralling and thoroughly entertaining novel.
Pages: 337 | ASIN: B010MH9YUW
Pale Face and the Raven by Stacey Dighton is a terrifying murder mystery meets a horror story. It starts with a string of rape cases and murders taking place in the town of Westhampton. Luke Raven, a detective inspector and long-time alcoholic is assigned to the case. Unable to cope with his alcoholism and an inability to form long-lasting connections with other people, he is dragged down by the weight of his own past and present. On the other hand, there is a struggling author, Tony Richards. His life isn’t turning out as he had planned, and his flailing desperation leads him down a dark path. His own sordid past and tattered familial relationships are slowly unraveled throughout the story. It is a race against time and personal struggles as these men and the people in their lives are dragged into the horrific events taking place.
Throughout the novel, I was surprised to find myself sympathetic to the murderer’s motives. Not supportive of them, of course, but Stacey Dighton managed to build his character in a manner such that his motives and actions were entirely believable.
It would seem that the alcoholic detective and struggling author are overdone cliches. But that did not make the story any less compelling. They were well-fleshed out and so human that they managed to escape the common murder mystery tropes. Similarly, all of the other characters were plagued with their own flaws. Addiction, cowardice, dependency, all these traits were laid out realistically.
The interlinking of all the characters added depth and complexity to the narrative, but was myopic at times. It was as if the five to six main characters were the only people who lived in
Westhampton and the other people clearly lacked dimension. Although this aspect did intensify the plot, it turned it into a bit of a guessing game. Sort of like Big Little Lies. However, it was without a doubt a thrilling read, kind of like a Jack Reacher novel but with more interesting characters. Perfect reading for a long weekend.
Pages: 373 | ASIN: B07ZBPFBWK
Revenge I Will Have follows Navy SEAL Jake as he’s tasked with a new mission, but finds his psychotic ex-girlfriend embroiled in the mission’s objective. What was your inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
At the conclusion of my first book, “Sleeping with a Wall Street Banker,” I found myself thinking about both Jake and Jessica. Where would Jake go? How would he react? What would Jessica do as a criminal on the run but also burning with hatred for those she feel betrayed her. Jake reacted by retreating to where he felt safe, a refuge. Jessica, consumed by hate, by seeking out a partner for revenge. Both characters were catalysts for the plot, similar to putting two combustible agents together, you eventually get a reaction. In this case Jessica caused the reaction that set the plot in motion because of her blind hatred
Jake is an interesting and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?
No one wants to read about a wimp or a sad self-absorbed character who is moping around, crying in their beer. Jake had misfortune fall upon him and he pulled himself up, like people do every day because they don’t have a choice. People are intrigued by characters with strong personalities, their strengths, flaws and idiosyncrasies. The reader can relate to them because they have flaws and quirks as well. I’m surrounded by strong personalities, most notably my husband who also has more than his share of lovable and funny idiosyncrasies
Jessica and her emotional issues were consistently intriguing. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character and relationship with Jake?
Jessica allowed her emotional issues to overwhelm her to the point she was no longer in control. She thought she was pulling the strings but in the end, she was the one who was being used. Her hate blinded her to see through the obvious
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m actually formulating a sequel to Revenge. Without giving away the plot, the Bat’s terrorist network, funded by a foreign government, is planning retribution against Jake by staging what could be a cataclysmic attack on the US while also targeting members of Jake’s family for death, specifically his invalid mother and his brother who is a Roman Catholic priest. There are geopolitical twists and turns and new plot angles that will have the reader on edge. The Bat’s friends find they bought off more than they could chew by going after Jake’s family.
Mired in grief over the recent murder of his girlfriend, Alice, at the hands of his psychotic ex-lover, Jessica, former Navy SEAL turned Wall Street banker Jake Logan is suddenly called back into action. While his team’s primary target is internationally known terrorist financier Asyd Omar Batdadi, a.k.a. “the Bat,” the mission soon becomes personal for Jake when he learns that Jessica—a dangerous woman with dissociative identity disorder—is wrapped up in the plot. In fact, Jake’s connection to Jessica is the very reason he has been reactivated as a SEAL.
Their efforts to capture or kill Batdadi and his associates soon take Jake and his fellow SEALs to various locations in Europe and the United States, but the wily terrorist manages to elude them at every turn. In the midst of their hunt, they learn that, with Jessica’s help, Batdadi is plotting a bold terrorist strike on American soil. For Batdadi, it is an act of revenge for America’s interference in the lives of his Middle Eastern brethren, a chance to put himself in the “terrorist hall of fame” alongside names like Osama Bin Laden. For Jessica, it is the ultimate form of payback against the journalists whom she holds responsible for ruining her life and her future with Jake.
Battling a ticking clock, international criminal masterminds, and his own grief, Jake strives to transform his troubled relationship with Jessica from a liability into an asset, his only hope of saving thousands of innocent lives—not to mention his soul.
Runaway follows Rose as she is taken from one home to the next and struggles to find a place without pain. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
This story actually came from a dream that interrupted my sleep night after night until I finally got up and wrote the outline. I tried to describe Rose the way she looked in my vivid technicolor dream.
Rose’s character is interesting and deeply developed. What were some ideals that drove her character development?
Although I was loved and wanted as a child, I grew up alone with older parents who were often mistaken as my grandparents. I had to entertain, and sometimes care for myself. Perhaps some of my own characteristics come through in finding the hideaway in the attic, pretending to be someone else through my own fantasies, and particularly escaping into my music. My own piano playing comes naturally; I play by ear as well as by note. Playing before a crowd, or on a small Sunday night service also comes from personal experience. How the book describes Rose getting lost in her music, playing with her eyes closed, or banging out her frustration on the keys comes from personal experience.
This novel sheds light on the condition of runaways and abused children. What do you hope readers take away from this story?
My husband and I were foster parents to young preteens. We saw the plight of these young children and what they had to endure (especially if they had to return to their families). We had to deal with and abide with CPS *(aka, the system) and their rules. It may not be the perfect answer, but with so many abused runaways/throwaways in our nation, it may be their only hope and salvation to be placed with a good foster family, and eventually adopted. More good families are needed in the system to meet this need.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am presently doing research on an immigrant child from Venezuela seeking to find refuge in the United States. His Venezuelan mother has been promised safe transport for herself and her twelve-year-old son if she can only come up with the money. She knows if she can get her son to his American father, he will be cared for properly and safe from the cartel. Even though Mateo’s father was only in Venezuela on a short work project, she believes he will welcome the son he knows nothing about. Little does she know the man she hired is only doing this for profit and benefits.
Hopefully, this will be available sometime next year.
My Love’s Journey Home trilogy (available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, or at my website, casimonson.com- 2013-2015) also deals with abandoned children. Separating to survive, some end up going through the adoption setting.
She was told she was unwanted. Unloved. Broken and scarred. “No man wants a cripple,” she was told. “You’re damaged goods.” But she never dreamed she’d be thrown away. There was only one thing she could do…”Runaway” is a fictional account that captures the plight of runaways, child abuse, and foster care in America. It’s a message of hope and faith when all else seems lost.