A.M. Harte

Biography

A.M. Harte is a London-based speculative fiction enthusiast and chocolate addict. She is an advocate of indie publishing in any shape or form. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what 'free time' means, and enjoys procrastinating on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/amharte).

An avid reader, she's been writing fiction far longer than anybody's been paying attention. Her work includes the dark fantasy novel "Above Ground" and the zombie love collection "Hungry For You". Some wonderful places that have featured her short stories are: Best of Friday Flash Volume 2, Flashes In The Dark, 12 Days 2010, The Random Eye & the charity anthology Tales for Canterbury.

During the daytime she works in print production. She lives in London, a city not half as foggy as some seem to think.

Where to find A.M. Harte online

Website: http://amharte.com
Twitter: am_harte
Facebook: Facebook profile

Books

Belonging
By
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,010. Language: English. Published: October 21, 2011. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » General
The virus is spreading. Born in a test tube, Anthony has never set foot outside the company compound. But when his best friend Laura goes out to rescue the evacuees, Anthony is the only one who can bring her back to safety. He alone is immune to the genetic mutations ravaging the city... because his genes created the virus. It’s the greatest experiment yet. One Anthony may not survive.
Other Sides: 12 Webfiction Tales
By
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 33,970. Language: English. Published: October 13, 2010 by 1889 Labs. Category: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - multi-author
This speculative fiction collection will capture the imagination and dazzle the senses, displaying the insight and wonderful originality of online fiction. Featuring Zoe E. Whitten, G.L. Drummond, MeiLin Miranda, MCM, Lyn Thorne-Alder & Chris Childs, Isa K., M. Jones, Erica Bercegeay & Charissa Cotrill, T.L. Whiteman, M.C.A. Hogarth, Nancy Brauer, and A.M. Harte, with an introduction by Jan Oda.

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Smashwords book reviews by A.M. Harte

  • Claimed (Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy: Blood Lust, Novella 2) on June 25, 2010

    Having read the first novella in the trilogy, "Kept", I was eager to get my hands on the sequel. And I wasn't disappointed: "Claimed" picks up right where "Kept" left off, except — instead of following Greta — it follows Anthony’s blood lust daze which leads him to Charlee. The end result is he wipes Charlee’s memory completely clean — she can’t remember her name, her dog, or anything else. And there couldn’t be a worse time for this to happen, as vampire politics are heating up. This was the strongest of the three novellas. Not only did it focus on vampires (yay!) but I really connected with Charlee as a character, and sympathized with her plight. And beyond that, I felt that the male protagonist was far more developed and conflicted: as a vampire, he has a darkness to him that he will always carry with him, and that makes their relationship all the more interesting. It helps that the same witty dialogue I enjoyed in the first book is carried throughout this one, too — characterisation is definitely one of Winters’ strengths. I also found the plot a lot more meaty this time around. Besides the obvious thread — Charlee’s amnesia — there is a vampire tournament involved, along with the introduction of Jane, who stars in the last novella of the trilogy. It’s a story of struggles: Charlee fighting valiantly with her amnesia and also with her mixed feelings for Anthony, Anthony struggling with his feelings for the “just human” Charlee, vampires doing their political manoeuvring… It all adds up to a tightly written, well paced novella. The world-building was as before a fascinating and unique take on the supernatural world, hidden in plain sight. I particularly liked how non-sentimental Winters’ vampires are: not sad and moping, but with ambitions of their own. And it was also interesting to see their differing political agendas and beliefs on matters such as blood drinking, mate claiming, and the level of respect owed to humans. Charlee is thrown head first into this confusing society and it is a testament to her strength as a character that she handles the situation admirably. So what didn’t I like? Well I definitely think that the first few chapters from Charlee’s point of view are a little weaker than in the second half of the novella, mostly because Charlee is so (understandably) confused that she needs a lot of “telling” — her best friend Greta immediately shows up and tells Charlee who she is, their history, etc. And Charlee took the information overload quite calmly; I would have preferred to really sink down into her confusion and fear. However, this really improves throughout the novel as Charlee is thrust into situations unfamiliar even to her unamnesiac-self (i.e. having to stay with Anthony). Anthony’s point of view on the other hand was great. I loved the insights into vampire culture, and I really liked his darker, more calculating side. Firstly, he’s a heck of a lot sexier than the male lead in the first book, which is always a plus! Secondly, the stakes felt a lot higher this time around. Given the political upheaval, Anthony is at risk of losing so much more than a relationship if things with Charlee go wrongly, and the added tension really pulled me in. Overall, Claimed is a highly entertaining light read which showcases Zoe Winters’ writing at its best. It’s a story that pulls you in: you cannot help but empathize with the two lead characters because they have so much to gain — or lose — from the success or failure of their relationship. In sum, if you like supernatural romance, vampires, or any combination thereof, this is the book for you.
  • Hush Money (Talent Chronicles) on Sep. 10, 2010

    Hush Money is the very promising debut of Susan Bischoff‘s Talent Chronicles series, a YA urban fantasy series that — rather refreshingly — avoids any mention of vampires or sparkling (because teens are interested in more than just blood-sucking). High school girl Joss has done everything in her power to go unnoticed. She eats alone, carefully controls her grades, and doesn’t even think about talking to her crush. Because Joss has a terrible secret: she’s has a Talent… and kids with psychic abilities tend to mysteriously disappear. Then new girl Kat joins the school, and puts herself into harm’s way whilst rescuing Joss from the school bully. In a world in which psychic abilities are punishable by imprisonment, Joss must choose between keeping her secret and doing what’s right to save a friend. Susan Bischoff has played her cards right: she has managed to write a captivating, engaging tale perfect for teens as well as all of us who… errr… aren’t quite teens any more. In a YA market over-saturated with the same old stories, Hush Money is a breath of fresh air and more besides: it is a fast-paced, engaging introduction to the Talent Chronicles series which will leave you hungry for the sequel. What truly sets Hush Money apart from its contemporaries are the characters. You’ve got the high school loneliness and angst of early Smallville, the large crew of cool X-men like-powers, but most importantly you have teenagers who are three-dimensional believable people. Joss and her crush Dylan are the protagonists, with the story alternating between their points of view, but the strong character depth extends beyond the main players, creating a fully-fleshed setting which you’ll enjoy sinking into. Furthermore, there is none of this “we were destined to be together” malarkey — in true awkward teen style, the romance is light-hearted, bumbling, and achingly sweet. The plot had a good mixture of high school drama and larger overpowering (governmental) threat, and while the issue is partially resolved, Susan Bischoff has planted many small seeds which will lead to a gripping, addictive series. After all, while Hush Money is dedicated to introducing the characters, world and dangers, the novel hints that there will be far more at stake in times to come. My only nitpick? While I enjoyed the alternating points of view — particularly because they were so distinct, and true to each character — the initial few pages felt a little forced. Joss’ use of ‘like’ felt a little contrived, a little “trying too hard to be a teenager”… but either the voice improved, or the story sucked me in soon after, because it didn’t bother me throughout the rest of the novel. Overall, Hush Money is just the tip of what might become a very huge iceberg. Be careful if you skim past this novel, because even with the smallest scratch you might find yourself sinking right in. That’s where you’ll find me, waiting for the sequel.
  • To Kill A Warlock on Oct. 16, 2010

    This is a solid urban fantasy with strong elements of romance. The story follows the independent, hard-working and crime-busting Dulcie as she polices the Netherworld and handles illegal trafficking, murder, and more. But Dulcie’s routine is thrown into disarray when a warlock is murdered and she’s the last person to have seen him alive. Dulcie must crack the case, fast—and it remains to be seen whether the sinfully attractive investigator Knight Vander will help or hinder her cause. Between fighting her attracting for Knight, hunting a roaming monster, and handling a scheming vampire, will Dulcie capture the murderer in time? While I was a little hesitant about the cover of Fire Burn, this cover caught my eye and held it, perhaps because Dulcie is much more my kind of protagonist than Jolie is. Dulcie is a go-getter, a strong female character with a mind of her own and the ability to fight her own battles. As a fairy, she’s blessed with supernatural speed and, of course, the magic of fairy dust—a power which, to my delight, is rather originally handled in this novel. I suppose “original” would be the best way to describe the world-building, too. While there were many familiar elements — witches and vampires and fairies — Mallory has created a fresh twist on the paranormal, viewed through the eyes of a snarky, entertaining heroine. The plot itself is often light-hearted (the story begins with Dulcie being turned into a slime monster) but isn’t afraid of the darker side too; what with murders and betrayals, this story has just the right mix of romance and suspense to make it a perfect weekend read. Knight remains a bit of a cipher but he’s an intriguing male lead, more so because Dulcie doesn’t put up with his oversized ego and helps to put him in his place now and then. The connection between the two is made all the more interesting because Dulcie keeps side-stepping his attempts to seduce her — again showing that Dulcie is a strong character who doesn’t fall into a swoon over just anyone. (Knight likes the challenge, though.) In sum, I think it’s quite clear that out of HP Mallory’s two series, Dulcie’s story is by far my favourite. To Kill A Warlock is an urban fantasy/romance that strays away from the beaten path by mixing in some serious crime-busting and undercover work — not to mention a solid ending that leaves you wanting more. Recommended for lovers of snarky heroines who can kiss ass and still have a love life.
  • The Ghost Hunter on Nov. 18, 2010

    While this is the first of Lori Brighton’s work I read, I can safely say that Brighton numbers among the better indie published paranormal romances I’ve read this year. From exorcisms to sword fights and family intrigue, The Ghost Hunter offers more than just a romance, creating an evocative fantastical world which I enjoyed sinking into. When she inherits a decrepit pub, Ashley Hunter is determined to search the place for clues about her father’s disappearance. But the pub doesn’t come alone: the place is haunted, and is set to become even more crowded as the mysterious, handsome Cristian Lucius turns up on her doorstep demanding that he rent a room. Beset on all sides, Ashley struggles to uncover the truth about her father only to realize that her search will place her in far more danger than she could ever have imagined. From the cover I thought this was going to be a pretty straight up romance, but already a few pages in I was proved wrong. The story is set in a small English town and boasts of a wide range of supernatural creatures, from ghosts, angels and witches to vampires, werewolves and faeries. The ghosts are the main focus of the first few chapters and are quite well characterized, alternating between charming and creepy. Ashley is a stubborn woman who can see ghosts, an ability that has created deep insecurities as she’s spent her whole life being told she’s crazy. Cristian is a tough-as-nails (fallen) angel whose job is to help ghosts move on to the other side. The two have instant chemistry of the ‘destined to be together’ type, which I often dislike but created a certain delicious suspense. And there are many other interesting characters, such as the cheeky little ghost Maggie, and the conflicted Devon, not to mention the slightly clueless witch Camille. But what I loved most was the paranormal aspect of the novel, and in particular the ghosts. While there is a lot of sweet romance and a HEA ending (and I’m not one for sweetness and romance!) there was a darker side to this story as well, and a number of creepy scenes including possession, hauntings, attacks, demons and more. I never knew what to expect and enjoyed following Ashley down into the darkness of the basement if only to get to the bottom of the mystery! The writing wasn’t as polished as I would have liked, with the smut getting a little repetitive, and I also found some of Ashley’s mannerisms irritating (eg, how she says “fangfreakintastic” all the time), but overall the plot moves along quickly and the intrigue kept my interest piqued. In sum, a spooky, light-hearted paranormal love story. Recommended for those who want some thrill with their romance.
  • 314 Crescent Manor on Dec. 11, 2010

    Mark and Nathan are brothers in name only. There is little love lost between them: any time spent together is torture for both of them. Yet something unexplained ties them together, pushes them to try, and try again at building their relationship. So when Mark moves to a new city for job-related reasons, artist Nathan packs his bags and follows suit. It just so happens that the place they move into is going to change their lives forever. While the first couple of chapters set the tone for Nathan and Mark’s awkward sibling relationship, I wasn’t properly pulled into the story until The Event (chapter 4), when things take a bizarre twist down the rabbit hole. And it is then that M. Jones’ atmospheric story-telling really starts to shine. The sense of parallel or alternate worlds, the lurking evil, and the growing mystery all combine together into an almost Silent Hill-esque setting which promises more questions than answers. A compelling plot began to unfold, and I looked forward to reading more. The chapters jump between Mark and Nathan’s point of view, and detail their parallel experiences of The Event. Both points of view are well-written and distinctive. The writing is description-heavy, often times eerie. For my tastes, it is a little too verbose at times, but the overall quality is extremely solid. Both plot and characterization are strong, the latter particularly so; I have a very clear impression of not just Mark and Nathan, but all of the characters. In sum: an refreshingly eerie story. Definitely one to read.
  • Mated (Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy: Blood Lust, Novella 3) on Dec. 26, 2010

    In Claimed, Jane was dating the vampire Paul, who seemed like an alright guy at the time. You soon find out how awful he is — at the beginning of Mated, Paul has incurred a load of debts and decides to literally use Jane to pay them off. Cole takes her as a hostage/guarantee and she ends up living with him for the duration… but Cole’s pack don’t make living arrangements simple. As with the previous novellas, Mated was a fun and entertaining read, the kind of light-hearted fiction which you devour in one sitting. And it works great as a teaser: not only are the main characters different, but the kind of preternatural involved differs between novellas, meaning that you get new insight into Winter’s creative world. The werewolf society is rather different from any I’ve read about before — I love how they live in underground cave systems of a sort, and their magical protection (thanks to Cain the incubus) is pretty unique. Of course the usual pack politics remain, making Mated an instant hit with werewolf fans. However, I have to say that — despite enjoying the story — Mated was my least favourite of the Blood Lust trilogy. For some reason, the characters and plot didn’t quite capture me as in the previous two, and I wonder whether it’s because all three novellas share a similar plot that, with familiarity, loses its effectiveness. In all three the female lead is in some way endangered by a preternatural force beyond her control. In all three the male lead, reluctantly at first, takes the female under his wing to protect her from said force. The two then proceed to live in close quarters, leading to misunderstandings, arguments, and sexual tension. They get together, solve the looming menace, and live HEA. It’s a formula that works, but I couldn’t help noticing the similarities when reading the three novellas back-to-back. The other issue I had was with the characters. Now, I like Cole. He’s one of those dark and dangerous bad boys who’s actually a sweetheart inside, which as always is a great combination for a sexy male lead! But I actually wish he was darker, more conflicted — perhaps more like Anthony, the lead in Claimed. Jane, on the other hand… Perhaps the fact that she annoyed me in Claimed biased me, but I didn’t really connect with her. She lacks the sparkle that Winters’ characters normally have, the snarkiness and clever wit. Yes, she’s got the worst background out of the three, and I admire her strength despite all the adversity she’s faced, but she just felt more passive as a character compared to Winters’ other heroines. Despite my nit-picking, I must reaffirm that I did enjoy reading Mated — it was a fun, light-hearted read with great world-building. I especially liked the hell dimension, where Cain the incubus was, and look forward to reading more about that in the sequel to the Blood Lust trilogy, Save My Soul.
  • Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble on Dec. 26, 2010

    The eternal pitfall of judging a book by its cover — I have to say, had I not read an excerpt, I might have refused the review copy. I am after all one of those closet romance readers who prefers to deny any interest in the genre and only reads such novels late at night in the hidden corners of my bedroom (of which there are many). But the excerpt convinced me to give it a try. I sat down with the review copy and before I knew it, I had finished the novel and it was past 2 o’clock in the morning. Fire Burn is what I term popcorn reading — that guilty pleasure read that you can’t help but crave after a long day at work. The story follows Jolie Wilkins, an LA-based psychic who runs a small fortune-telling business with the help of her best friend. Enter her latest client, Rand Balfour, who is not only stunningly attractive but a powerful warlock to boot. It is thanks to Rand that Jolie discovers the true extent of her powers, but this discovery comes with unpleasant consequences: she becomes a hot commodity for everyone in the Underworld. Will Jolie survive the custody battle between Rand, a 600-year-old vampire, and an evil witch bent on world domination? Warlocks, witches, vampires, werewolves and fairies — every kind of supernatural creature has its chance to shine in Fire Burn. Mallory has put thought into the Underworld hierarchy, creating a compelling supernatural world. As a matter of fact, the world-building is among the strongest aspects of this book, not only in terms of the paranormal but also in terms of the physical location—considerable effort is dedicated to giving readers a sense of place. The plot is fast-paced and involves a lot of supernatural political machinations—in that respect, Fire Burn feels very much like the introduction to a series, because much is left unanswered. Perhaps overly so: while I did enjoy the taster Mallory has given of her world, I longed for something more substantial. A contributing factor was that this novel is more of a paranormal romance than an urban fantasy—while there is a larger plot at play here, the focus is more on relationships. Speaking of relationships, I must admit to being intrigued by the male love interests, particularly by Sinjin the vampire. Mallory’s male characters captured my imagination the most—while I didn’t like all of them, I could understand their motivations. I was less convinced by the female characters. Jolie, the lead, wasn’t always credible in her decisions, and her best friend came off as a stereotypical girly-girl. However, Jolie does develop throughout the novel, and I expect will become more likeable as the series progresses and she acquires some much-needed confidence. The writing is reminiscent of many current bestsellers; the informal first person voice seems to be meeting a lot of success lately, and it certainly adds to the engaging tone of this novel. My only nitpick would be with the choice of some descriptions and phrases: occasionally the prose was repetitive, and I wasn’t convinced by the Briticisms which (as a long-term UK resident) did not sound native to me. In sum, Fire Burn is a solid introduction to what promises to be an engaging, light-hearted series – there is much left unanswered and a definite promise of more heat to come. If you like your urban fantasy with a large dollop of romance, then this might be the book for you.
  • To Kill A Warlock on Dec. 26, 2010

    This is a solid urban fantasy with strong elements of romance. The story follows the independent, hard-working and crime-busting Dulcie as she polices the Netherworld and handles illegal trafficking, murder, and more. But Dulcie’s routine is thrown into disarray when a warlock is murdered and she’s the last person to have seen him alive. Dulcie must crack the case, fast—and it remains to be seen whether the sinfully attractive investigator Knight Vander will help or hinder her cause. Between fighting her attracting for Knight, hunting a roaming monster, and handling a scheming vampire, will Dulcie capture the murderer in time? While I was a little hesitant about the cover of Fire Burn, this cover caught my eye and held it, perhaps because Dulcie is much more my kind of protagonist than Jolie is. Dulcie is a go-getter, a strong female character with a mind of her own and the ability to fight her own battles. As a fairy, she’s blessed with supernatural speed and, of course, the magic of fairy dust—a power which, to my delight, is rather originally handled in this novel. I suppose “original” would be the best way to describe the world-building, too. While there were many familiar elements — witches and vampires and fairies — Mallory has created a fresh twist on the paranormal, viewed through the eyes of a snarky, entertaining heroine. The plot itself is often light-hearted (the story begins with Dulcie being turned into a slime monster) but isn’t afraid of the darker side too; what with murders and betrayals, this story has just the right mix of romance and suspense to make it a perfect weekend read. Knight remains a bit of a cipher but he’s an intriguing male lead, more so because Dulcie doesn’t put up with his oversized ego and helps to put him in his place now and then. The connection between the two is made all the more interesting because Dulcie keeps side-stepping his attempts to seduce her — again showing that Dulcie is a strong character who doesn’t fall into a swoon over just anyone. (Knight likes the challenge, though.) In sum, I think it’s quite clear that out of HP Mallory’s two series, Dulcie’s story is by far my favourite. To Kill A Warlock is an urban fantasy/romance that strays away from the beaten path by mixing in some serious crime-busting and undercover work — not to mention a solid ending that leaves you wanting more. Recommended for lovers of snarky heroines who can kiss ass and still have a love life.
  • Forsaken By Shadow on Dec. 26, 2010

    I like the cover image of this novel. There’s something tantalizing about it, something that keeps drawing my eye again and again. The font is cool, too. But what about the insides of this book? Forsaken By Shadow is a gripping urban fantasy romance which follows Cade Shepherd as he wakes up injured and alone in a motel with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Making a life for himself as a champion boxer, Cade cannot shake the nagging sensation that something is missing from his life. Then Embry — a gorgeous, strangely familiar woman — turns up and gives Cade his old life back, bringing back his memories of the hidden paranormal world and his life as a Shadow Walker. But the memories come at a price, for Embry’s father has been kidnapped and Cade is her only hope to rescue him…. This story starts with a bang. Cade wakes up alone in a seedy motel, disoriented, panicked, his hands severely burned. There was someone he wanted to save, someone he was willing to die for, but who? Jump forward several years and Cade is walking onto the Ultimate Fighter arena — he may not remember who he is, but his body sure remembers how to fight. This is one tough protagonist who can kick ass and won’t let anything bring him down. He’s a survivor. Embry is a survivor in a different way. She arrives on the scene set to seduce Cade and rope him into helping her father, and it soon becomes clear that for her young(er) age, she’s toughed up fast, although vestiges of her innocence remain. She’s determined to rescue her father from a high-security army base no matter the risk, even if the Counsel has specifically told her not to. A woman with spunk, then. (It certainly helps that she can produce flames at will.) Illegality and physical danger aside, the situation is made even more difficult by the attraction between Cade and Embry, which amnesia and time did not manage to erase. The reluctance is more on Cade’s part than Embry’s, for Cade admires Embry’s father and thinks he should treat Embry as a little sister. But it’s impossible to deny his feelings, and things tend to get heated with a firestarter around (pun intended). I don’t know whether this story simply came at the right time, but I really enjoyed it. The characters are believable, the romance isn’t overdone, and there are some wicked, well-written action scenes. The worldbuilding was equally intriguing, with a host of unusual magical talents and the feeling that much more lies beneath the surface — I can only hope Nolan comes out with a sequel soon. Perhaps my only nitpick? I didn’t find Cade as sexy as I wanted him to be. I’m a pretty tough customer that way, but I much preferred amnesiac Cade to himself-with-memories — the devil-may-care attitude of the former was far more gripping than the duty-torn responsible version. Not to say he wasn’t sexy; I’m just picky. :-D In sum, a suspensful, entertaining urban fantasy set in an intriguing world where the paranormal hides beneath the known. Worth checking out!
  • His Robot Girlfriend on Jan. 06, 2011

    Middle-aged widower Mike Smith teaches by day and vegetates in front of the TV by night. His life is dull, uneventful. But the humdrum routine is broken when he sees an ad for a Daffodil robot and, on impulse, he splurges on a sexy female robot that can be anything and everything he wants it to be. Mike’s life will never be the same again. His Robot Girlfriend is set in a not-too-distant future where androids are commonplace, working as waiters, cleaners, gardeners, and more besides. The world is interesting and realistic; the author has put careful thought into the small details, which makes it all the more believable. While I found a few of those details niggling — such as TVs being called vueTees — for the most part the setting of the novel is very immersive. It certainly helps that the characters are likable: it isn’t so difficult to empathize with Mike’s life as a middle school teacher, and Patience (the android) has an endearing, quirky personality — although I must admit a large part of her charm comes from the fact that she’s not human. But perhaps the characters are too likeable. Far from being an exploration of the moral issues behind androids and human/robot love, His Robot Girlfriend is a light-hearted romance about two nice individuals whose only wish is to please the other. Of course, given the differences between them (and Mike’s stereotypical maleness), making each other happy is no easy task. I have to confess that I wasn’t expecting a romance, which somewhat coloured my impression of the book. I was a little disappointed that the novel did not cover any of the expected android themes in any depth, besides in small scenes such as Patience being offended when a waiter calls her an ‘it’, and her not being allowed to gamble in Las Vegas. The concept of the story is interesting, but there is so much more it could offer. I suppose the main critique I would have of His Robot Girlfriend is that there wasn’t much substance to the plot. While I enjoyed Allison’s vision of a possible future, the story lacks conflict; the two potential challenges Mike would have had to overcome were quickly resolved, and my expectations that the story would develop into something fuller were not met. Allison’s writing style is perhaps a little choppy, and takes some getting used to, but overall I was impressed by the quality of this ebook. For something free, Wesley Allison has produced a respectable book, and I would be curious to check out his future releases. In sum, I enjoyed reading His Robot Girlfriend for its unusual vision of the future, although the plot itself is a little thin on the ground. It’s a light-hearted, quick read (I raced through it in one sitting), and I’d recommend it to fans of fluffy HEA science fiction romance.
  • The Mind Readers, Book 1 on Jan. 17, 2011

    First of all, look at that cover! Yes, I’m as guilty as the next person of judging a book by its cover, even when said book is an ebook. Particularly for indie publications, many authors don’t seem to think of investing into their design — a serious mistake (please, no more 3D videogame people!). The Mind Readers immediately creates a good impression with that cover alone: it’s eye-catching, looks professional, and I’d like to know who made it. Give me a good cover and I’m more likely to be forgiving about other mistakes… not that I found much to complain about in this novel. The Mind Readers follows the adventures of Cameron Winters, a small-town teenager in Maine who struggles to fit in with her peers at school. It doesn’t help that Cameron has a secret she must protect at all costs: she can read minds. Then Lewis Douglas arrives and shows Cameron exactly who she could be if she embraces her hidden talents. Tempted by the possibility of freedom, Cameron follows Lewis to meet others of her kind… only to find herself caught in a deadly power play. Part murder mystery, part paranormal adventure, The Mind Readers blends romance and intrigue into an escapist novella that will leave you hungry for more. The action kicks off when a student’s body washes up to shore and Cameron hears the thoughts of the killer in the crowd. With her talents, she’s the only one who can identify the murderer, but she’s been trained from a young age to hide her gifts and do absolutely nothing to expose them — even if it means putting other people in danger. The story thus raises an interesting moral dilemma: is protecting yourself (at the expense of others) right? Cameron’s domineering grandmother seems to think so, even though the guilt eats away at Cameron’s heart. It is only when Lewis arrives, and shows Cameron how she could live her life differently, that Cameron begins to take a more proactive approach and uses — rather than hiding from — her talents. I have to admit, Cameron was a little annoying at the start: whiny, a bit of a pushover, and using her mind reading talents in order to be friends with the ‘cool’ kids, who love how she always says the right thing at the right time. But the discovery of other mind readers gives Cameron the confidence boost she needs, and she becomes stronger and more self-aware. By the end, the seedlings for a kickass heroine have been established. The supporting cast is a little mixed. Lewis intrigued me, particularly because he’s a lot more than a sweet love interest, and has unexpected depths. The dangerous Maddox caught my imagination too, as did Aaron, who runs a school for mind readers which made me think of a darker, twisted version of X-Men. What had me hooked was that I couldn’t tell who was telling the truth, nor who I should be rooting for. Unfortunately, many of the other characters missed the mark with me, particularly Cameron’s high school classmates who all seemed a little too shallow. I also found it a little unbelievable that many of the male characters were incredibly good-looking; while I expect that in a romance, I found it odd in a YA. My only other nitpick is the ending. Cameron grows so much during this novel: her experiences have shaped her into a stronger person ready for the future danger she will face. I won’t say much to avoid giving spoilers, except that it was a little bit of a disappointment to find Cam back to almost exactly where she started, even if she’s a changed person. However, I must admit the frustrating killer cliffhanger sweetened my disappointment and left me looking forward to reading the next in the series. In sum, I’d recommend checking out The Mind Readers. It’s a fast-paced entertaining YA ideal for fans of the paranormal.
  • Death By A Dark Horse on March 08, 2011

    Thea Campbell goes out for revenge when the one person who is simultaneously the most likely and least likely candidate for thief steals her horse. But Olympic hopeful Valerie Parsons is past caring about being arrested: she’s dead, and the police think Thea’s horse is the killer. Desperate to prove her horse’s innocence, Thea is soon drawn into ever-deepening danger as she confronts those looking to settle the score. Toss in her wrecked love life and a sexy geology professor who stirs up more than dust, and Thea’s life is out of control. Too many details are not adding up. Who is the killer? And will Thea find them before they find her? The cleverly titled Death By A Dark Horse has all the trappings of an engaging murder mystery: high stakes, an independent heroine, intimidating goons and a clever villain. All of this is set upon a backdrop of horse-riding and dressage, so right off the bat I can easily recommend this story to horse lovers. If you’re not much of a horse person, rest assured this novel might still have something to offer you. As a main character, Thea is very much someone you can relate to. She’s clever — and runs her own accounting business — but at the same time she’s also the “average Jane” of the story who is caught up in events greater than herself. The same could be said for all the characters in the book: Schreyer manages to avoid stereotypes and make her cast believable. Even the police — who at first I found very annoying and frustrating — ultimately are behaving as you’d expect them to behave if some average citizen decided to play detective. As for the plot, it’s fast-paced and entertaining, and most importantly for a murder mystery, the resolution isn’t predictable: the identity of the killer was certainly a ‘dark horse’ that took me by surprise. Interwoven with the murder plot is Thea’s love life (in crisis) and her insecurities when it comes to horse-riding — while neither of these two elements dominate in the novel, they provide much needed colour and background to Thea’s character. In sum, if you enjoy murder-mysteries with strong female leads, or if you like horses, then this might be a book for you.
  • Devil's Eye on March 10, 2011

    Set in Kait Nolan’s Mirus universe, Devil’s Eye is a fast-paced urban fantasy detective novella which expands upon the intriguing world-building first seen in Forsaken By Shadow. This bite-sized tale is just long enough to whet your appetite and introduce some interesting new characters, but also works well as a stand-alone for those unfamiliar with Nolan’s work. Trouble. That’s what wolf-shifter Mick thinks when a beautiful woman appears in his New Orleans bar with a hurricane at her back. His first impression is confirmed when Sophie starts asking questions about his missing waitress, Liza. Mick will do anything to rescue a member of the pack he’s made for himself, including forming an unlikely alliance with a woman with a badge. The entire plot of Devil’s Eye takes place over a few scant, action-packed hours, in which Mick and Sophie team up despite their reservations in order to save a missing waitress. What follows is a fast-paced Indiana Jones-esque adventure through a cemetery and a mysterious crypt, escaping from bear shifters, zombies, and much, much worse. As usual, Nolan writes kick ass characters. Sophie is a demi-goddess and a tough cop to boot; Mick (who had a cameo in Forsaken By Shadow) is a gruff werewolf who is very protective of his employees. While there is some building romantic tension between the two leads, their relationship is not the focus of Devil’s Eye, although I have to say the sparks between them do add a little extra tingle to the story, leaving you hungry for more. To top it off, Nolan writes with great skill. Her prose is clean, simple, engaging and well-edited; she is a credit to the indie author community. On a side note, I think it was very clever of her to use the same cover composition as she did in Forsaken By Shadow, but if I compare the two I actually prefer the texture and blue detail in Devil’s Eye. (Not that you should judge by the cover….) In sum, among the many urban fantasy novels being published, the Mirus universe stands out. If you’re a fan of the genre, you should be reading it.
  • Sounds of Murder on May 03, 2011

    Sounds of Murder is a cozy murder mystery debut which brings back childhood memories of reading the adventures of amateur sleuths like Nancy Drew — except instead of a teenaged detective, we have an older, professional sleuth who uses acoustics to solve crime. Main character Pamela Barnes is a university professor with an expertise in acoustic technology and the classical personality of an amateur sleuth: she’s passionate, stubborn, and can’t leave well enough alone -- choosing to continue investigating despite common sense. Set on a university backdrop of academic politics and high-stakes research, the novel features a wide enough range of potential suspects to keep you guessing. The use of acoustic technology to solve the crime is certainly original, although the drawback of using sound waves is that it makes it very difficult for the reader to do any sleuthing of their own, which tends to be one of the appeals of the genre. Overall, however, the story is well-written and engaging; this is a light-hearted, quick read. While a little slow-paced, the realistic setting and use of acoustic technology are enough to intrigue. Recommended for fans of gentle murder mysteries with strong romantic subplots. [Read my full review at quillsandzebras.]
  • Levels Of Deception on May 19, 2011

    A university professor is dead. Important fossils are missing. The last thing Thea Campbell wants is to be involved in another murder investigation, but when her absentee boyfriend Paul becomes the prime suspect, she has little choice in the matter. Thea is determined to clear Paul’s name, whatever it takes—whether he likes it or not. But will their relationship survive the pressure? And will Thea find the killer before he finds her? The levels of deception are far more personal than anyone could have imagined in this fast-paced murder mystery. Levels of Deception is the second book in the Thea Campbell Mystery series, and picks up roughly where the first book, Death By A Dark Horse, left off. After dancing around each other throughout Dark Horse, Thea and sexy palaeontologist Paul are finally together, but it’s not all romance and sunshine. Concerned for her safety, Paul is determined to put a stop to Thea’s amateur sleuthing, even if it’s his own life on the line. That he doesn’t trust her only riles up Thea’s infamous temper, meaning that their relationship is rocky even before the murder investigation begins! Then the department chair of Paul’s university is murdered, and the very fossils he was working on are stolen. All signs point to Paul, but Thea does some digging of her own and becomes embroiled in university intrigue. Coupled with an unexpected visit from her emotionally-distant mother, a family wedding on the horizon, and being far too stubborn and reckless for her own good, and Thea has far more trouble on her hands than she can handle. In Levels of Deception, Schreyer has kept the interwoven plot lines, surprise twists, well-rounded characters and realistic dialogue that so entertained us in the first book of the series, but she’s made some changes as well. There’s less horse-riding and more romantic drama, meaning that Levels of Deception is likely to have wider appeal than its prequel. In sum, if you're looking for a cozy murder-mystery with nail-biting romantic drama, this is the book for you.
  • Tales of Pneuma 01: The Divine Chocolate Shop on Sep. 13, 2011

    Tales of Pneuma is off to a promising start. In this first story, "The Divine Chocolate Shop", main character, Liam, wants to investigate the deaths of his parents. During his investigation, he ends up working at a rather bizarre chocolate shop. His employment will bring him to the very fringes of reality, to the smudged line between life, death, and alternate universes. Written in present tense, the writing style is quite literary with highly descriptive prose, and unusually striking images. I often find literary fiction tedious to read, but in this case the author manages to tread the fine line and produce well-planned prose without neglecting the plot. The story is set in modern times, with a hint of the surreal. The fantasy elements are unusual and imaginative (such as chocolates that contain human emotions), which is refreshing. While Tales of Pneuma is an ongoing short story collection, with each story being self-contained, there is an overarching plot which ties everything neatly together. Thus Tales of Pneuma will appeal to both short story and serial lovers alike. I'd recommend checking out other stories in the series.
  • Stories About Things on Feb. 09, 2012

    I downloaded this book for free from Smashwords and read through the entire collection Well-written, bite-sized, imaginative flash fiction which serve as an ideal introduction to Blythe's work. The anthology is separated into two parts: contemporary stories (about things of this world), and speculative stories (about fairies and things of other worlds). All the 13 stories feature striking and evocative writing, but also fairly unusual characters and plots -- an old man who becomes so obsessed with time travel that his own life passes him by, a widow consumed by grief for her late husband, and a man addicted to maple syrup who is struggling to remember his dark past. My personal favourite was the autumnal story "Leaves of Trees", which was unexpectedly sinister and very imaginative. Recommended for those looking for a quick and thought-provoking read.
  • Arcane Solutions (Discord Jones 1) on Feb. 20, 2012

    Arcane Solutions is a quick and fun paranormal detective story recommended for fans of HP Mallory, Kait Nolan, and Charlaine Harris. The story follows Discordia Angel Jones, a psychic private investigator with a penchant for life threatening situations. Her boss, determined to protect his best PI, hires handsome wolf shifter Nick Maxwell to be her bodyguard. It’s lust at first sight between the two… but first they’ve got to find a missing girl, fend off vampire attacks, and stop a demonic cult from ending the world. Just another day on the job for Discord Jones…. This is a quick, escapist read which I raced through in a few hours. As befitting of the genre, the prose is stripped back and casual, and the plot fairly easy to follow. It has the requisite hunks, a kickass heroine, and offers a fresh take on the paranormal world – if this sounds like your cup of tea, don’t hesitate to read it. Discordia falls into the tough, independent and headstrong heroine category — although thankfully intelligent enough not to make stupid, obvious mistakes. Born a human, she gained psychic abilities when the paranormal and human worlds melded, but unlike any other psychic, she has multiple powers as opposed to the standard one or two. Love interest Nick is the strong, jealous type. His jealousy doesn’t win points with me, although kudos to Discordia for challenging his attitude rather than putting up with it. Points to Drummond as well for the captivating world building. The melding of the paranormal and human worlds is still fresh in everyone’s minds, leading to prejudice and fear between some of the characters. It’s refreshing to read a story where everyone doesn’t just calmly accept the paranormal, and the tense relationship Discord has with her step-mother adds some depth to the story. Overall, however, Arcane Solutions is at most a guilty pleasure. I didn’t find the resolution satisfying (the explanation of the vampire attacks was an anti climax) and the ending felt rushed after the pages and pages of conspiracies and whodunnits. That said, I am intrigued to read more. Drummond has left much unexplained: how the melding of the paranormal and human worlds happened, why Discordia has more power than any other psychic, and what secrets the shifters are hiding. Plus I’d love to know more about Leglin — you’ll have to give it a read to find out why! In sum, if you like urban fantasy settings with a dollop of romance, then this might be one for you.