CRACKS IN THE TAPESTRY OUT NOW

Today is the day!Cracks in the Tapestry cover

Cracks in the Tapestry, the fantasy anthology in which my short story “Life at the Speed of Time” appears, is now live on Amazon!

What happens when the mundane and the fantastic meet? We get Cracks in the Tapestry.

-A former secret agent’s sister return from the dead, bringing with her mysteries surrounding her miraculous return?
-A Reverend takes his message from God to a new planet eager to spread the gospel.
-A NASCAR driver discovers there is much more happening on the track then he ever had imagined.
-A thief must steal her love’s most prized possession.
-A scientist discovers something very peculiar about an archeologist exhibiting odd behavior.
-A newborn siren discovers a man who can resist her song.
-A Sioux warrior must face off against the might of the US Military Remnant to defend his home and people.

Will you peer through the Cracks in the Tapestry?

Cracks in the Tapestry collects stories from Leslie Conzatti, J.D. Cunegan, Arthur David, C. Scott Davis, Benjamin D. Pegg, R. Eric Smith, and Lorna Woulfe.

Pick up your copy here!

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

Pre-order CRACKS IN THE TAPESTY

Exciting news!Cracks in the Tapestry cover

Cracks in the Tapestry, the first anthology I’ve ever been a part of, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Cracks in the Tapestry will release on Kindle and paperback on October 21, but you can secure your copy now!

From the book’s Amazon listing:

What happens when the mundane and the fantastic meet? We get Cracks in the Tapestry.

Can a former secret agents sister return from the dead? Bringing with her mysteries surrounding her miraculous return. 
Reverend Josiah takes his message from God to a new planet eager to spread the gospel.
A NASCAR driver discovers there is much more happening on the track then he ever had imagined.
The legend of an ancient warrior who discovers a gift from the gods above.
A scientist discovers something very peculiar about an archaeologist exhibiting 
A newborn siren discovers a man who can resist her song.
A Sioux warrior must face off against the might of the US Military Remnant to defend his home and people. 

Will you peer through the Cracks in the Tapestry

Cracks in the Tapestry collects stories from Leslie Conzatti, J.D. Cunegan, Arthur David, C. Scott Davis, Benjamin D. Pegg, R. Eric Smith and Lorna Woulfe.

My story, “Life at the Speed of Time,” was a blast to write — unlike anything I’ve written before, and the first time I got to work my love for auto racing into my work. I can’t wait for you all to see it.

Click here to pre-order your copy of Cracks in the Tapestry!

 

Official SealBounty has been nominated for a TopShelf magazine Indie Book Award!

It’s a big deal for my debut novel to even be nominated — and there are plenty of perks therein — but if by some stroke of luck I actually win, then there’s no end to the awesomeness that would ensue. Mostly I’m just jacked that someone thought enough of my work to nominate it. That’s pretty damn cool.

Anyway, check it out (and if you haven’t got your copy yet, do so)!

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Support J.D. Cunegan on Patreon

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: E.A. Copen

It’s been a while, but it’s time for another Author Spotlight! Today, I bring you all one of my favorite self-published urban fantasy authors, E.A. Copen. She is the author of the Judah Black series, as well as the Fairchild Chronicles, and she has even more projects coming in the next few months.

Let’s talk to E.A.

What was your inspiration behind writing the Judah Black series and its offshoot, Kiss of Vengeance?

They came from two very different places! When I started writing the Judah Black novels, I knew I wanted to have a heroine who was real. She’s got problems. Some are supernatural, bust most aren’t. Most importantly, I knew I wanted to write about a mom because too many stories just end when the female lead gets married or gets pregnant. Stories don’t have to end just because your heroine is a parent. I wanted to write about a mom who could still kick ass and somehow managed to raise a son in the process.

Kiss of Vengeance rose partly out of my frustrations as a writer (mundane things like writer’s block and deadlines), as well as something personal I was going through. I knew I wanted to explore the world of the fae, which Judah doesn’t interact with much, and to also tell a story from the other side of the law. While discussing something completely different with a friend of mine, he uttered the phrase “reluctant white knight” and the idea is sort of born from that.

You’re one of my favorite urban fantasy authors. What draws you to that particular genre, and – specifically in terms of the Judah Black series – what made you combine that genre with elements of other genres, such as mysteries?

Aw. Thank you.

Mostly, I started writing urban fantasy because I love to read it. I write the books I think I’d like to read. As an adult, I watched Supernatural and fell in love with the monster-of-the-week type story, but also with the writers’ ability to use the small plots to create a larger plot.

And they have elements of other genres too, like westerns and dystopia. Mainly that’s my own fandoms bleeding through. I love a good western, and dystopia is my favorite book genre to this day, aside from urban fantasy.

So many of my favorite characters anymore are female – Buffy Summers, Kate Beckett, Sydney Bristow, I could go on and on and on. What drove you to create Judah Black, and what stood out to you about her even from the day you first created her?

I wanted to write about a mom and it wouldn’t be far off to say I was inspired at least in part by my love of Dana Scully in X-Files who could be feminine while still being a force to be reckoned with. She had her career and she was very serious about it.

Judah’s a little different, though. She gets thrown into fighting things way outside of her weight class. Instead of upping her powers all the time so she can go kill all the baddies by herself, I give her a team. The people who love and support her throughout the series is really what makes her unique. Lots of heroines out there can defeat monsters and play the lone gunman. Judah’s strength comes from the people she has in her life.

Character vs. plot: the seemingly endless debate over which is more important for a good story. Which side of that debate do you fall on?

Character, definitely. There are probably hundreds of werewolf murder mysteries out there. What makes a reader stick around isn’t plot. Most plots have been done before. You stay for the characters. When a reader finds a character they connect with, it’s like magic. You’ve got to have someone to root for.

Are you a heavy plotter, or do you just let the story take you where it will?

The only plotting I ever do is a one- or two-sentence summary that names the protagonist, antagonist, and their goals. I used to try to outline, but I found that once I plotted everything all out, I lost interest in finishing. To me, once it’s down on paper it’s done. I like having the excitement of not knowing everything that’s going to happen.

Kiss of Vengeance takes place in the same universe as the Judah Black novels, but it has a completely different feel and sometimes feels like it’s an entirely different genre. How did that book come about, and what are your broader plans for this universe going forward?

Kiss of Vengeance is about finding who you are when your back’s against the wall and everything you’d normally use to define yourself is stripped away. When I was writing it, that’s sort of what I was going through in my personal life. I had to find a way to describe who I was without resorting to my go-to list of mother, wife, writer. Plus, I just love film noir and wanted to see if I could pull it off.

The universe can certainly expand. I’d like to do more Fairchild books, but it is a little harder to write Dal’s stories because he lives in a brutal criminal underworld. Because of some events that happen in upcoming books, I also opened up the possibility of doing another series in the same world set in Alaska and leaning heavily on Inuit mythology. There’s also a prequel novella and some prequel short stories I’m working on to eventually release. One day, I’d love to go back and explore all that happened during and before the Revelation. I hope I get that chance.

Without giving away too much, where do you see the Judah Black series going from here? I understand Playing With Fire’s coming sometime this fall?

Well, there’s always been something of a political sub-plot in the series. As the crimes get more publicity, regulations will get tighter. Eventually, that kind of treatment can only lead to one thing. That is, if the werewolves, fae, and vampires can figure out how to get along long enough to fight back. They are monsters, after all. They just can’t seem to get along. And of course, Judah can’t ever keep out of trouble. Whenever she sees a loose thread, she has to unravel it. It’s going to get her into even more hot water in the highest echelons of government, both on Earth and in the fae.

Playing with Fire is sort of the kick-off book for that. It’s the first glimpse I give my readers into how deep the rabbit hole goes. I’m hoping to have it out in October of this year.

What are some of your favorite books?

In no particular order, my current top 5 books would be:

Dangerous Ways by R.R. Virdi
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
River Marked by Patricia Briggs
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Ask me again next week and I’ll have a new list. Books tend to rotate in and out of it depending on my mood. When someone asks me my favorite book, my answer is always “the one I’m currently reading.”

 

Beasts of BabylonIn addition to the Judah Black series and Kiss of Vengeance, Copen will have a new release on Aug. 1: Beasts of Babylon. This entirely new story is already up for pre-order on Amazon.

Gunslinger Anastasia Thorne won’t stay dead.

Ten years ago, monsters murdered Anastasia and her children. Now, she’s back to hunt down the monsters responsible. She knows their names, their faces, and even where they’re hiding.

There’s just one problem. No one in town believes her.

When the sheriff refuses to help, Anastasia strikes a deal with the notorious outlaw, Jesse Gallagher instead. The pair ride into the mountains in search of vengeance, but the hunters quickly become the hunted. With the sheriff hot on their trail, ghouls on their heels, and werewolves and skin stealing monsters in the mountains, Jesse and Anastasia quickly find out they’re outgunned and in for a long night.

It’s going to take more than silver bullets to put these monsters down.

 

Now let’s see what I think of Copen’s work so far.

Guilty by Association (Judah Black #1)

Three things I love:Guilty by Association

1) Kickass ladies;

2) Genre mash-ups; and

3) Stories that start off as one thing and end up being something else entirely.

Guilty by Association, E.A. Copen’s debut, checks all three of those boxes. Special Agent Judah Black, new to a middle-of-nowhere stretch of Texas stuffed to the gills with the supernatural, finds herself staring a classic whodunit in the face — only this time, the victim is a werewolf. Before long, though, the case turns into something much larger than even the victim, and the result is an entertaining, engrossing read.

Copen treats us to an entertaining cast of characters, and even though I’ve never been a particularly big fan of werewolves, a few of them wound up being personal favorites. Judah Black sometimes reads as a cross between Buffy Summers and Kate Beckett (two of my all-time favorite female ass-kickers), and I can already tell she’s a character who’s going to stick with me.

Part murder mystery, part urban fantasy, part conspiracy thriller, Guilty by Association does a masterful job of creating and laying the foundation for a rich, vibrant supernatural world. Even if the setting makes Sunnydale seem like a bustling metropolis, Copen has done a fantastic job of showing us just enough of the world to get us interested; I’m beyond glad that I already have the next two installments in my collection, and hope there will be even more down the line.

Books like this are why I will vehemently defend independently-published books. Indie authors are some of the most creative, most daring individuals I’ve met, and when they create stories like this, we’re all the better for it. To me, Judah Black is every bit the equal of, say, R.R. Virdi’s Vincent Graves, and I’m glad to count myself among one of Copen’s biggest fans going forward.

Okay, enough blabbing; I’ve got to read Blood Debt. If you haven’t read Guilty by Association yet, do yourself a favor and change that. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: *****

Blood Debt (Judah Black #2)

Blood DebtConsidering how much I loved Guilty by Association, despite my distaste for werewolves, I was chomping at the bit to read Blood Debt given my affinity for (…almost) all things vampires. And as I suspected, E.A. Copen’s second entry in the Judah Black series doesn’t disappoint, offering yet another action-packed mystery and enough character moments to add depth as well as bite.

Yes, that was totally intentional.

To my pleasant surprise, a fair number of players from the first book also appear in Blood Debt giving Judah’s admittedly small world a much larger feel. Even so, there are enough newcomers to keep things fresh, including magick wielder Mara and the mysterious vampire-but-not-really-sorta-kinda Abe. As much as I enjoy Judah as a protagonist, having interesting side characters along for the ride turns an entertaining read into a certified page-turner.

The side stories are plenty — almost too much so, as it felt like one of the side stories got dropped around midway through the book in favor of the main plot — but again, they help flesh out Judah’s character and world.

A common critique of the mystery genre (and a valid one) is that it often feels paint-by-numbers, that it hits all the typical notes without offering anything that would provide depth and/or resonance. Copen’s series doesn’t fall into this trap, and the result is a world that is simultaneously otherworldly and intimate. She’s knee-deep in a world of monsters, yet the reality of her life is so intimately personal that the scope never once overwhelms the reader.

Blood Debt was a fantastic follow-up to Guilty by Association, and Copen has quickly established herself as one of my favorite indie authors. I’m anxious to read Chasing Ghosts and hopeful that the wait for the series’ fourth installment is a short one.

Rating: *****

Chasing Ghosts (Judah Black #3)

Chasing GhostsIf Guilty by Association and Blood Debt, the first two novels in E.A. Copen’s Judah Black series, were worldbuilding affairs, the third book — Chasing Ghosts — puts all the puzzle pieces together in an emotionally fraught, highly intense adventure that wraps up the initial arc and sets up what promises to be an exciting future.

Everything that made Guilty and Blood fantastic novels is back for Chasing Ghosts; Copen is clearly growing and maturing as a storyteller, and she’s fine-tuned each of the characters’ voices. Judah is quintessentially herself, but she is so much more, as she progresses both on her own and with regards to several of the relationships she keeps.

Chasing Ghosts is, fair warning, an emotional gut punch. There are at least three occasions where this book practically moved me to tears, and there’s something viscerally satisfying about that. Yes, we often read to escape, but we also read to feel. Copen gets us to feel for several of the key players in this tale, while simultaneously taking us on a journey that twists and turns far more than I had anticipated.

The depth Copen has given not just Judah, but several of the other important characters, really helps flesh out Paint Rock — a world that, on its own, doesn’t really amount to much. Paint Rock makes Sunnydale seem like a bustling metropolis, but the reservation’s inhabitants more than make up for the lack of scenery.

I’m excited to see where this series goes from here, even though Chasing Ghosts would make a fitting end to a trilogy. Judah Black is one of my favorite characters, and Copen has established herself as one of my favorite independently-published authors. If TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayerand Supernatural tickle your fancy, then this is a series you should be reading.

And if not? Hell, read it anyway. Cause it’s really, really good.

Rating: *****

Kiss of Vengeance

Kiss of VengeanceKiss of Vengeance might take place in the same universe as E.A. Copen’s Judah Black novels, but it is a much different story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the worldbuilding this short story offers alone is worth the price of admission. Fortunately, Copen gives us a solid story and memorable characters to go along with this.

First a caveat: there will be a few passages that might be uncomfortable for some readers. The violence is graphic and there are occasional moments and mentions of sexual violence, both against adults and children. Nothing explicit, but it exists, so it’s worth mentioning.

In short, this is a mafia revenge story with a supernatural flavor. Dal is an enforcer for a fae crime family in Boston, and he finds himself on one hell of a revenge kick after he finds his wife and daughter murdered. The rest unfolds like you would expect such a tale to unfold: lots of blood, lots of anger, lots of angst.

But Copen still manages to weave a satisfying tale, because the characters are what drive everything. Dal is very much a Frank Castle-like figure, and those allied with him and those opposing him are each memorable in their own rights. The characters (even a pleasant cameo from the Judah Black series) make this tale.

If you’ve read Copen’s Judah Black books, Kiss of Vengeance is a chance to revisit that universe and find something different. If you haven’t, this isn’t a bad place to start. It’s a short, quick read, and I’d like to see what comes next. Copen is quickly becoming one of my favorite indie authors, and this is another strong entry.

Rating: ****

All of Copen’s works are currently available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats; be sure to visit her Author Central page to pick up your copies. Also, be sure to check out the new audiobook version of Guilty by Association.

BOOK REVIEWS: Part VIII

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

the-5th-waveThe 5th Wave is by far the most intense book I’ve read so far this year.

And “intense” is really the best way to describe it. I’ve not read many “alien invasion” sci-fi books, but I’m guessing most of them don’t start mid-invasion. But by the time we meet Cassie to open this book, we’re already three waves into this. Hearing the waves described after the fact doesn’t sound great, but… wave #3 alone is gruesome in hindsight (so much so that I’m glad we don’t really get it in real time).

The intensity is so thick that it keeps you turning the pages — and when you finally come up for air, you feel it in your gut. Even midway through the book, as we’re introduced to different characters and things are truly unraveling, the intensity never wavers. This book does not give you a breather — which makes sense, because that’s how it is for the characters.

Some of the exposition is mind-twisting. It’s hard to know what’s the truth and what’s not. That can be frustrating, but I think Rick Yancey did that on purpose. The characters, after all, no longer know who or what to trust — so what better way to engage the readers by ensuring they’re not sure what to trust, either?

This is not a book for the squeamish, because of the intensity and the fact that we’re exposed on more than one occasion to child warfare. That can be a difficult subject to stomach, and there were times when even I had to pause and walk away.

But The 5th Wave is incredibly engrossing, written in such a way that you cannot stop reading. The size of the hardback edition can be daunting, but the story is so intense, so all-encompassing, that hundreds of pages fly by in the blink of an eye. Not every character worked for me — Evan, in particular — but I say that understanding there are still two books in this trilogy I’ve yet to read.

But Cassie and Sammy alone are worth the price of admission.

I’ve read a lot of really, really good books in 2016, and The 5th Wave is definitely near the top of the list. The Infinite Sea and The Last Star have a high bar to climb.

Rating: *****

Buy The 5th Wave on Amazon

Bounty by Michael Byrnes

bountyI’ll be honest: I only picked this book up because it shared a title with my debut novel.

And while both my Bounty and Michael Byrnes’ Bounty share a title and open with a grisly murder, that’s where the similarities end. At its heart, Byrnes’ novel asks the fundamental question: when traditional justice fails, is it right for people to take matters into their own hands? This is hardly the first work of fiction to ask that question — I’m reminded of the League of Shadows from Batman lore, and even Batman himself — but Byrnes explores that question amid the backdrop of the Internet and our digital-dependent culture.

Along the way, the bodies pile up worldwide as numerous law enforcement agencies are chasing their proverbial tails. Murder victims aside, there’s little violence in this Bounty — this is more of a psychological thriller than anything — and yet this is a page-turner as fast-paced as anything else I’ve read in the genre.

The technical jargon is overwhelming at times — far more so than the scientific jargon peppered throughout The Martian — but I don’t think my level of knowledge had any bearing on how much I enjoyed the book. But there are a few occasions where a reader might come across a passage that leaves them a little confused, so it bears mentioning.

Readers might also find themselves occasionally backtracking in order to remind themselves of a certain character, and this book seems to end on a little bit of a cliffhanger; there is not 100 percent resolution, and it feels like there’s a potential sequel in the offing.

I hope there is.

The biggest gripe, to me, is the sheer number of characters. Byrnes does his best to give them all their unique quirks and personalities and what not, but there are so many of them that more than a few don’t come across as well as they probably should. The scope of the plot likely necessitated the sheer number of players, but if there is a sequel, I hope Byrnes trims the roster a bit.

All in all, Bounty is a fantastic mystery/thriller that features a disturbingly plausible storyline. To me, the best novels often posit the question “What if…?” and this novel certainly delivers.

Now… any chance Byrnes might read my Bounty?

Rating: *****

Buy Bounty on Amazon

Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

forget-tomorrowIf you could see into your own future, what would you do? Especially if you didn’t like what you saw.

Callie Jones saw the worst possible future for herself, sending Forget Tomorrow into an intense, frantic, and emotional journey that often wadded waist-deep into the philosophical divide between fate and free will. An unexpected ally joins Callie on her journey, and despite some missteps midway through, Pintip Dunn offers up one of the more emotional books I’ve read in 2016.

The immediate aftermath of Callie discovering her future is fraught with tension, fear, and the unknown. Though she spends many of the early chapters by herself, or surrounded by those she isn’t sure she can trust, those chapters fly by… and then she finds herself on the run, confronted with possibly the last person she wanted to see, and then… Harmony.

I’ll be blunt. Most of the love story between Callie and Logan did nothing for me — but that’s because of my own bias against romantic subplots as a whole. They often feel out of place, though I will give Forget Tomorrow credit for not shoehorning in a love triangle like so many other YA novels.

And I did enjoy the fact that of the three potential romantic entanglements among those in Harmony, the spectre of their respective futures stood in the way. Aside from that, though, Logan and Callie as a romantic item did nothing for me.

However, Logan’s overall importance to the plot still worked for me. I have this odd ability to separate the romantic from everything else, so a book still works for me even if the romantic subplot doesn’t.

(And if my distaste for romantic subplots makes me a coldhearted curmudgeon, then… guilty.)

The end of the book seems to build to an inevitable conclusion, but there is a twist in the final moments that even had my mouth agape. I flipped through the final chapter thinking there had to be a way out of it, and I even had my theories on that, but I did not see the move that was made. Perhaps, in hindsight, it should be obvious, but still.

My issues with some of the middle notwithstanding, Forget Tomorrow is a fantastic read, almost impossible to put down. The beginning and end are that strong, and I am eager to pick up the next installment.

Rating: ****

Buy Forget Tomorrow on Amazon

BOOK REVIEWS: Part VII

In which I review a pair of gems each from Rose Montague and Alex P. Berg.

Jade by Rose Montague

JadeJade is the first in a trilogy of supernatural thrillers and a lot of fun to read. The titular heroine is called a “magical mutt” in the blurb, and for good reason — she’s part witch, part vampire, part faerie, and part shifter… and that just scratches the surface. There is even more to Jade than that, and I really hope future stories dive further into her backstory, which is only hinted at in the second half of this book.

But as much of a badass as Jade is — and you all know my love for badass heroines — she has a softness and a vulnerability to her that keeps her from feeling like she’s too strong or too powerful. Her chemistry with Jane is clear from the instant they meet, and that chemistry is one of the reasons I’ll be diving into the second book, Jane, very soon.

There are a few slight quibbles that kept me from giving Jade five stars; this book couldn’t used one more pass-through in editing, and the pacing does dip on a few occasions. But what starts as a supernatural murder mystery quickly devolves into something deeper and darker, something that promises to show us much more of this vibrant, dark world Jade inhabits.

But more than anything, Jade is a fun read and a strong introduction to the trilogy.

Rating: ****

Buy Jade on Amazon

Jane by Rose Montague

JaneJane is the sequel to Jade, but this time we see the continuing tale through the eyes of London Jane, a vampire to whom Jade struck a relationship with in the first book. This second novel sees Jane and Jade jetting across the world trying to kill the Devil, and in a lot of ways, this is a cleaner, more adrenaline-packed outing than the first book.

The two vampires’ bond is more than emotion or physical attraction; they are linked to each other in ways that help them in their quest and serve the plot. This story is simultaneously self-contained and has an effect on the world at large, and while I found myself occasionally wondering about characters I met in Jade, Jane is such a fun ride that those quibbles are minor.

The editing issues that plagued Jade are largely absent from Jane, though there is the occasional plot point that seems to come out of nowhere (one major one in particular is the only thing that keeps me from giving this book five stars).

Still, this is another fun read from Rose Mantague, one that has me eager for the third installment, Jill (and you all know how I feel about badasses named Jill).

Rating: ****

Buy Jane on Amazon

Red Hot Steele by Alex P. Berg

Red Hot SteeleIn a lot of ways, Red Hot Steele is your typical murder mystery, down to the at-times stereotypical hard-nosed Detective Daggers — who is equal parts cynical, not as funny as he thinks he is, and sexist. But it’s the little tweaks to the formula along the way that ultimately turn this book, my first read from Alex P. Berg, into an engrossing, fun read.

We open with Daggers losing his old partner and having to deal with a new partner — a female with seemingly unique psychic abilities named Shay Steele. Their interactions are typical and predictable at first, but as the book progresses and they learn each other as detectives and as people, they develop a chemistry that I look forward to exploring further as I dive deeper into the series.

Oh, and there’s a nice twist on Steele’s character at the end that I particularly enjoyed. For me, it was a far better payoff than actually solving the murder.

I’m a fan of murder mysteries that don’t take themselves too seriously — it’s one of the reasons I was such a fan of the TV series Castle. Red Hot Steele unfolds in the same manner; sure, there’s dark material here, but this book never forgets to have fun. The laugh-out-loud moments can be counted on one hand, but there’s plenty of whimsy and chuckle-worthy moments to keep the macabre from getting lost in itself.

Berg has a way with words, and his sentence flow is some of the best I’ve read — particularly among indie authors — this side of R.R. Virdi. He’s also done a fine job of slowly introducing us to a world that resembles ours, but is just different enough. The supernatural and the occult aren’t huge factors in Red Hot Steele, but something tells me that will change as we dive deeper into the series.

There’s nothing particularly revolutionary here, but Red Hot Steele is still a fun, entertaining read that introduces us to a world full of promises and co-protagonists who have the potential to grow as individuals and as a pair. If you get me to care about your characters, I’ll go along for just about anything, and Berg has done a good job of getting me invested in what happens to Daggers and Steele going forward.

Rating: ****

Buy Red Hot Steele on Amazon

Cold Hard Steele by Alex P. Berg

Cold Hard SteeleIn a lot of ways, Cold Hard Steele is a worthy follow-up to Red Hot Steele, taking what worked so well in the first installment of Alex P. Berg’s supernatural mystery series and building upon it.

For one thing, Cold Hard Steele places a brighter spotlight on the supernatural aspect of the world Daggers and Steele inhabit. What was background dressing in the first novel takes the spotlight with aplomb in this edition, and though it featured possibly my least favorite supernatural creature in werewolves, the mystery is crafted well enough that it hardly mattered.

I enjoyed watching the further development of the partnership between Daggers and Steele — though I can certainly tell where it’s going. But it almost has a Castle season 2/3 feel to it, and the lighthearted nature of so much of this book is a strong counterbalance against the mayhem and the murder surrounding everyone.

There’s even a fictitious novel that features prominently in the book.

The only thing that keeps this book from receiving five stars is the ending. Not the solving of the mystery itself, but the fact that it’s revealed in a big info-dump conversation between Daggers, Steele, and the other detectives (Rodgers and Quinto) — instead of unfolding through the interrogation of the character who ultimately wound up being the murderer. I would’ve loved to have read that scene, rather than have everything recited to me after the fact.

Still, Cold Hard Steele is a fun read, a fantastic supernatural mystery, and a worthy follow-up to Red Hot Steele. As of now, there are four other novels available in this series, and I can’t wait to devour them as well.

Rating: ****

Buy Cold Hard Steele on Amazon

Nominate NO SAFE PLACE on Kindle Scout

No Safe PlaceLast year, indie author Mary Head released her debut novel, The Only One, a romance that undid many of the genre’s less savory stereotypes and told a touching and entertaining story. Now, she’s ready to publish her second novel, a thriller titled No Safe Place, and you can help.

Click here to nominate No Safe Place on Kindle Scout. If the book is selected, everyone who nominated it will receive a Kindle copy for free.

You like free books, don’t you?

No Safe Place is a fantastic read: frenetic, fast-paced, packed with tension, and full of relateable characters. What Head did for romance novels, she’s bound to do for thrillers.

So please, click the above link, nominate No Safe Place, and help out a fellow indie author.

About No Safe Place
Hannah Cole, a young graduate student, and her father David Cole, a senior FBI agent, enjoy a happy life together, until Hannah is kidnapped from their home one night, turning their world upside down. With the force of the FBI behind him, including his best friend Juliet Grayson, trusted partner Chris Tyler, and rookie agent Eli Shaw, David rushes to find his daughter, while Hannah struggles to stay alive, both of them racing against a deadline that could mean the end of Hannah’s life.

COVER REVEAL: Madeline Dyer’s FRAGMENTED

I’m a huge fan of Madeline Dyer’s debut novel Untamed, a YA dystopia that’s more character-driven than anything else. It was a gripping, intense read, and I can’t wait until the sequel, Fragmented, hits on Sept. 7. In the meantime, I’m proud to show off the cover for Fragmented, courtesy of Prizm Books!

fragmented1400

After the terrible battle against the Enhanced Ones, Seven and Corin find themselves on the run. With the Enhanced closing in, Seven knows they need to find other people on their side. So, when the opportunity arises to join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, it seems like the perfect solution.

But the Zharat lifestyle is a far cry from what Seven’s used to. With their customs dictating that she must marry into their tribe, and her relationship with Corin breaking down, Seven knows she has to do something before it’s too late. But that’s easier said than done in a tribe where going against the rules automatically results in death.

And, with the Enhanced still out there, nowhere is truly safe for the Untamed–least of all for the most powerful Seer in the world… and Seven soon discovers how far people will go in order to ensure that she’s on their side in the War of Humanity.

Battling against the emerging web of lies, manipulation, and danger, Seven must remember who she was meant to be. Her life has never been more at stake. Nor has humanity itself. 

Check out Madeline’s website for more information, including future pre-orders.

And while you’re awaiting Fragmented, pick up a copy of Untamed!

UntamedAs one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides–because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.

But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.
 
Yet, as one of the most powerful Seers that the Untamed and Enhanced have ever known, Seven quickly discovers that she alone holds the key to the survival of only one race. But things aren’t clear-cut anymore, and with Seven now questioning the very beliefs she was raised on, she knows she has an important choice to make. One that has two very different outcomes.
 
Seven must choose wisely whose side she joins, for the War of Humanity is underway, and Death never takes kindly to traitors.
About the Author

Madeline Dyer lives in the southwest of England, and holds a BA with honours in English from the University of Exeter. She has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes. Madeline is currently working on a YA paranormal thriller. Fragmented is her second novel.

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Newsletter