Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: FROZEN, by Christine Amsden

Review: FROZEN, by Christine Amsden
Release date: April 11th, 2018
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Mystery
Series: Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, Book 7

Get your copy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Fans of the Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective urban fantasy series will enjoy this the 7th instalment. This time, Cassie is married…but if you think life ends when you’re married, think again, especially in the small paranormal town of Eagle Rock, where everyone seems to have a magical ancestry and magic keeps popping up in unexpected places. In fact, the magic seems to be getting greater every year, with sorcerers growing stronger and mothers like Cassie channelling more magic while pregnant. The Magical Underground tries to keep things at bay, but sometimes it can get out of control, like now…

Two people are found frozen to death, a pack of hellhounds has appeared out of nowhere, and there appears to be a sudden outset of suicides. Who or what is causing all these happenings? It is up to Cassie to find out—only, this time, while nursing her baby and managing her new marriage and family life. 

Being a fan of the series and having read all of the previous books, I was happy to find out that the series didn’t end with Cassie getting married in the last book.  It’s not easy solving mysteries and facing dangerous situations in between diapers or arguments with a husband, that’s for sure! I found the story fresh and entertaining, with Cassie’s unpretentious, honest voice shining through the pages. She is both strong and vulnerable, which I love. The writing is engaging, smoothly flowing from chapter to chapter with the “quiet” tone of a cozy mystery. Though the book can be read as a standalone, without the intrusion of too much backstory, I highly recommend reading the books in order for a more satisfying experience.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Book Feature: Intrusion by Lanayre Liggera

As the judge in a complicated case involving an oil-bunkering gang, Sir Carter Braxton finds himself totally under the security provided by a mysterious figure, Sidi el-Hassam, a wealthy Arab who commands a volunteer group that specializes in preventing crude oil theft. The isolation under which he now lives causes him to miss his best friend’s funeral in 1993 for reasons that must remain inexplicable to his friends, the Falconer family, who live in the Forest of Dean, where they grow restoration oak. Finding herself in London, the widow, Valerie Falconer, an American from Texas, slips into one of Carter’s trials as a spectator, after which she discovers the conditions under which her old friend has been living for over three years. However, a third element also mixes into the situation in that both Carter and the Sidi, separately, have volunteered to participate in the refining of the GSP satellite system now being tested by NASA. This tracking system allows Carter to move temporarily to Texas to draw one of his assassins out. Not only is this the story of a man under physical stress and emotional stress; it is also a record of his spiritual journey led by his friend and later wife, Valerie, as well as the spiritual journey of the Sidi, which has been generated by an apparition of Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt.

Lanayre Liggera holds an MA from Tufts University and another from Cambridge-Goddard Graduate School, where she became interested in the history of woman as portrayed by music, which led to the formation of the New Harmony Sisterhood Band, with Lanayre on banjo. The students’ research produced the book All Our Lives, which was used on college campuses until radicals blew up the publisher, Diana Press. Sometime later, she began to pursue a long-held interest in early aviation. Inevitably, this led studying World War I, spending several tours of the Western Front sponsored by our parent organization, the Western Front Association, US branch. Lanayre was named chairman of the New England–New York chapter, a post which she held for fourteen years, which held a yearly conference at a different location in our region. She and her husband were involved as volunteers in prison ministry for eighteen years as well as in nursing homes, soup kitchens, and the VA. They live in Hudson Valley, where they try to keep up with the comings and goings of their global grandchildren. She is the author of The Life of Robert Loraine: The Stage, the Sky, and George Bernard Shaw.

Book feature: Ordainment Betrayal by Dennis Quiles

Title: Ordainment Betrayal
Author: Dennis Quiles
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Format: Ebook

Jack Steele is an ex–naval intelligence officer turned private investigator who has just proposed to his girlfriend, Martha, over dinner when he sees a bloodied and frightened boy running toward him outside the restaurant. After Martha steps in to protect the boy from the two men in hot pursuit, a gun battle ensues, leaving Jack’s beloved fiancĂ©e dead on the sidewalk. While Jack grapples with the ramifications of her tragic death, he is unwittingly pulled into the dark world of human trafficking at the hands of an Albanian mob doing business near Lake Michigan. Desperate for answers, Jack partners with a Chicago police detective to learn about the organized crime culture and develop a plan to stop the trafficking operation and free their victims before they are sold on the black market. As Jack puts his own life on the line, he must battle the powerful Catholic Church and stop the cunning exploits of a deranged pedophile priest who believes he is doing God’s work by turning children into little angels. But will Jack manage to accomplish his heroic mission before it is too late for more innocent victims? Ordainment Betrayal shares the thrilling tale of a former intelligence agent’s dangerous quest to stop an Albanian human trafficking operation in collusion with the Roman Catholic Church..


Dennis Quiles earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in business administration. A US military veteran and an accomplished professional of the protection business, he is the director of global security for one of the world’s largest multinational corporations. Quiles and his wife have three children and currently live in Illinois. This is his third book.

Authors To Watch: Rebecca Burrell, Author of At Shutter Speed @raburrell

In her own fictional world, Rebecca Burrell is a secret Vatican spy, a flight nurse swooping over the frozen battlefields of Korea, or a journalist en-route to cover the latest world crisis. In real life, she’s a scientist in the medical field. She lives in Massachusetts with her family, two seriously weird cats, and a dog who’s convinced they’re taunting him.



In the click of a shutter, #Resistance becomes more than just a hashtag.

Pass the bar exam. Convince someone—anyone—in the Egyptian government to admit they’ve imprisoned your husband. Don’t lose your mind. For fledgling human rights attorney Leah Cahill, the
past six months have been a trial by fire, ever since Matty, a respected but troubled war photojournalist, disappeared during a crackdown in Cairo.

Leah, the daughter of a civil rights icon, grew up wanting to change the world; Matty was the one who showed her she could. Though frustrated by the US government’s new fondness for dictators, she persists, until a leaked email reveals a crumbling democracy far closer to home.

Risking her own freedom, she gains proof Matty’s being detained at a U.S. ‘black site’, stemming from his work covering the refugee crisis in Syria. Armed with his photo archives, Leah plunges into their past together, a love story spanning three continents. She uncovers secrets involving Matty’s missionary childhood, her own refugee caseload, and the only story the deeply principled reporter ever agreed to bury. It’s what got him captured—and what might still get him killed. With Leah’s last chance to save him slipping away, Matty’s biggest secret may be one he’s willing to die to protect.


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We welcome you to My Bookish Pleasures! Can you tell us how you got started writing fiction?

For better or worse, I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up wanting to be a writer. I came to writing somewhere in my late twenties through fan fiction. I was an avid watcher of the TV show Alias, and active in an online fan community for the show. As with many fandoms, discussion could get heated, but I learned so much about character and story development, and soon, I found myself wanting to explore the characters more. It was probably a year or two later that I started getting the urge to right my own original pieces, something I found both exciting and vaguely terrifying.

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

While a lot of writers consider themselves strictly plotters or strictly pantsters, I’m more of a hybrid. I’ll plan broad arcs and turning points, and write out character sketches (there’s this ridiculous 50 question worksheet I have a love-hate relationship with) Once I’m done with those things, I tend to just write from one turning point to the next. Depending on how the story has evolved, I either keep going or re-evaluate. There’s an old Army joke that no battle plan survives past first contact with the enemy – for me, it’s applies to my writing, as I find that I can’t really plan anything detailed more than one turning point in advance. Too much changes once the characters take the wheel. 

For when and where, I tend to write in the early mornings or evenings, usually sitting by a fire in the living room if it’s winter, or in warmer months, I will take my laptop and a coffee out to the sunny back deck.

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

At Shutter Speed, my first published novel, is the story about a fresh-out-of-law-school human rights attorney who gets a trial by fire when her husband, a respected, but troubled conflict photographer, goes missing after a crackdown in Cairo. The story is set in Africa and the Middle East over a fifteen year period, spanning from the beginning of the Iraq War to the present day. It’s part portrait of a marriage, part the story of the ways in which war affects not just those who fight it, but those caught up in it, those in the humanitarian community who try to help, and those who feel compelled to document it all. 

How did you get the idea for the book?

Bits and pieces of At Shutter Speed have existed on my hard drive for an embarrassingly long time, so it’s hard to be sure (though it probably involved my tendency to fangirl journalists instead of movie stars and a lifelong obsession with current events) While I’ve always loved this story, it was never really the right time for it. Then the election happened, and suddenly the America around me no longer made sense. Both my husband and our children were born elsewhere and came to this country as immigrants. Especially to my older son, it all felt very personal and scary. For me, writing has always been my way of figuring out things that on the surface, I can’t. When I started reading back through what I’d written, it became clear that now, this was the story I needed to tell.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Dale, my heroine’s father, who’s an aging Civil Rights hero. She’s his only living child, from a late-in-life second marriage, and seen through her eyes, he’s equal parts inspiration, anachronism, and though he loves her fiercely, he’s a bit of a mystery she’ll never quite figure out. Much of the inspiration for him came from my own grandfather, including a story he shared with me towards the end of his life about his time as a young soldier in France and Germany. My grandfather wasn’t the most emotionally demonstrative guy in the world, but there was one moment for him towards the end of the war that resulted in a complete and total loss of his religious faith. He described it in such a powerful, personal way that I’ll never forget it, and though I’ve never experienced war myself, it made an permanent impression on me of the ways in which it profoundly affects those who have.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

My novel follows the lives of a married American couple over the past fifteen years, most which they spent living in Africa and the Middle East. The logistics of writing a story built around recent history can be tricky, especially when our interpretation of those events is still evolving. As a country, we’re still feeling the effects of the Iraq War (especially those who fought in or covered it). The Syrian Refugee Crisis is simultaneously both intractable and rapidly changing. It was a real challenge trying to make the events and situations in the book reflective of the current state of affairs not just in those places, but also with the rapidly changing political situation at home in America as well.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on two different books right now, both in the same fictional world as At Shutter Speed. The first, titled Resurrecting Micah, is set in Jerusalem and the West Bank, about an interfaith couple involved in the peace movement, and the second is about a pair of millennials who’ve been caught up in an episode of gun violence and decide to leave the US for life as ex-pat humanitarians.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring fiction authors?

Make friends. Writing has traditionally been considered a solitary profession, but first, that’s a recipe for all sorts of unhealthy things, and second, publishing these days is driven by social media to such a large degree that going it alone just doesn’t fly. As the saying goes, I get by with a little help from my friends, and thanks to the amazing writers I’ve met, I wouldn’t want it any other way.