A triumphant and entertaining blend of science, religion, and indelible characters.

GODDESS DAUGHTER

From the Goddess Rising series , Vol. 2

A doctor uncovers a surprising menace after a family tragedy causes him to lose a portion of his memory in this novel.

Dr. Randy Macklin was at home in Maryland when his wife, Cheri, died after a car accident in Malaysia. As a UNESCO director, she had traveled to Indonesia as part of a tsunami relief effort, but the fatal collision occurred in Kuala Lumpur. Randy is staying with his lifelong friend and business partner, Young Nae Yoon, just outside Kuantan. Alarmingly, Randy can’t remember the four months since Cheri’s funeral, including his 19-year-old daughter, Desiree, falling into a coma from a snakebite. So he sees psychiatrist Dr. Sanantha Mauwad for help. Part of the therapy involves a field trip to where Young Nae says a snake bit Desiree, but Randy and Sanantha discover a discrepancy or two in his story. A friend of Randy’s subsequently explains that a dangerous rival, Lo Cheung, may have targeted those close to Young Nae. Sure enough, unexplained apparent bug bites on Randy’s back may be signs of an elaborate plot, one that threatens him physically every time he has an illuminating flash of memory. Shocking revelations await as Randy gets closer to the truth. Hartlove’s sequel has a discernible spiritual undertone, featuring diverse religious beliefs and characters’ ambiguous dreams that ultimately prove enlightening. Nevertheless, the story’s core is an engrossing mystery, as the villain, who may or may not be Lo Cheung, spearheads a devious scheme both intricate and disturbing. The author sets a persistent momentum courtesy of details gradually revealed rather than saving all the plot twists for the final act. This likewise allows for necessary scientific exposition to unfold periodically without decelerating the narrative. Characters, even the baddies, are dynamic, though a standout is empathetic Sanantha, returning from the first installment.

A triumphant and entertaining blend of science, religion, and indelible characters. (dedication, acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949139-63-1

Page Count: 261

Publisher: Paper Angel Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2020

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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