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The Enchantress
Before Beauty and the Beast
A story of love, lust, and power
~When faced with a dangerous proposition, she must decide between love or power.~ 
The beggar who cursed the beast had a bigger story than anyone could have imagined.
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~ Author R. l. Weeks ~

The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay


This is one of those books that has an intriguing premise, but just doesn’t quite follow through. I picked it up expecting something similar to the classic YA horror of the R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike books that I read as a teenager. It was a good attempt that fell short for me.

The story starts with a remote island that is home to a boarding school for the elite and talented. Unfortunately, our heroine is not in attendance for her academic, artistic, or athletic abilities. Unlike the other students, she is there because her parents happen to own the island. That is part of the reason she is surprised when she is chosen to become a member of the Guild, a not-so secret society of the coolest kids. It begins with her initiation, which is disgusting, but promising. It quickly went downhill from there, though.

The Kill game is a yearly ritual for the Guild. One person is the killer and they must come up with elaborate ways to “kill” the other members, until someone correctly guesses who the killer is. The book spends a good deal of time building doubt about several of the characters, but they do not actually have much interaction with Cate, our heroine. The other major character, Vaughn, is her childhood friend and is the most entertaining element of the book. Alex is the nasty leader, who is obsessed with the game. The rest blur into the background.

The back cover of the book promised danger, but there isn’t much and it is unimpressive. One girl has a robotic spider tossed at her with peanut oil on it, a dangerous attempt due to her allergy. It was supposed to be exciting, but it came across as silly. It wasn’t until the last tenth of the book that it actually picked up its pace. Finally, someone almost dies. It took far too long to get to that point. The ending is ridiculous and it is easy to guess the who, but the why is an utter disappointment.

I found that all of the characters were annoying, even Vaughn, my favorite. This is a YA novel, but the teen aspect was overwhelming and I could not connect with any of the shallow characters. It’s not a small book and I had to force myself to finish it. It turned out to be nothing like the gory, heart-pounding books of my own youth. Sadly, I cannot recommend this to readers, unless they are prepared for a slow, anti-climactic read. The author’s style is appealing. It is all the other parts of a story that are lacking.

Now, for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Young adult and definitely for young adults. I enjoy YA, but this was a little too young.
  • Level of sexuality – There is a tad bit of kissing, but that is all.
  • Is there graphic language? No.
  • Did I cry? Not a tear.
  • Did I laugh? Nope.
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – Basically non-existent.

I wish I had better news about this book. It is obvious that a lot of hard work went into this story, but the characters were flat and not particularly interesting. There was too much time spent running around in caves or on the beach and not enough actual danger. I am sorry to give it ⭐️⭐️ stars. I had hoped to find a new, exciting author, but I will probably pass on her work in the future.

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Featured Author: Tom Minder


Who are you?

Tom Minder lives in southern New Jersey with his wife Paula, and writes novels and short fiction. He is published in various online journals and in the Beach Nights anthology from Cat & Mouse Press. He is a member of the South Jersey Writers’ Group and The Writers’ Coffeehouse. His novel, The Long Harbor Testament, was released by Black Rose Writing on January 5th 2017.

1. When did you start writing?

While I had the central details of my novel rattling in my brain for about ten years, I only started outlining and writing my novel five years ago. After years of telling friends and relatives that I would someday write my presumed masterpiece, I was at a family baptism where my daughter and nephew asked about the progress. Busted! I had to admit that the book was between my ears at the moment.

That night, I opened a Word doc and did a brain dump of everything I knew about the novel: characters, setting, and storyline. Hours later, I had three pages of bullet items in no particular order. I spent a month turning this into an outline, fifteen months writing the first draft, nine months of beta reading and editing, and three years of reworking, querying agents and small presses, and attending workshops, until accepted by Black Rose Writing.

2. What is your inspiration?

The works of Dostoyevsky and Graham Greene, my Catholicism, and Jersey diners. Both Dostoyevsky and Greene feature characters faced with moral dilemmas, but too susceptible to human needs to think clearly. My Catholicism, while forming my moral base, also contributed the angst needed to question good versus evil, and the expedient versus the long-term. I’ve also met with several priests over the years when they were
‘off the clock’ so to speak, and got to understand their humanity and needs.
Jersey diners are a miniature replica of the outside world: a place to meet, eat, expound of the troubles of the day, make business deals (both legal and illegal), all while consuming fat-driven dishes served by waitresses who have experienced more of life that most customers, or cops and priests, for that matter.

3. How did you come up with your stories?

The Long Harbor Testament was this mixture of Dostoyevsky, Greene, Catholicism, and minor criminals which formed into a story of small town crime and those affected.
For my anthology, which will come out later this year, I took stories of everyday Jersey life: skunks, diners, gambling, life at the shore, murder, and had my mythical couple, Sam and Lana, vanquish each foe with the help of human and mythical neighbors.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I have an office at home. I’m not really tempted to write anywhere else. No back of napkins, notes on my Smartphone, etc.

5. Do you plan your stories before starting?

Yes, I outline everything, even short fiction. The story takes on a life of its own as the writing proceeds, so the outline becomes more of a reference point to make sure I’m not drifting too far off.

6. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I finished my first draft. Typing ‘The End’ transforms the literary weekend warrior to an aspiring writer. Beta reading, professional editing, and querying turns you into an aspiring author. That big acceptance letter turns you into an author in search of an audience.

7. Do you see writing as a career?

More of an avocation for now. I don’t need writing to pay the bills, but I need it to continue to give purpose to my life in my retirement years, and stay out of Paula’s way.

8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Exposition can get out of hand. It’s better to say just enough and have the story fill in the blanks through dialog or plot elements. Also, I’m still working out the ‘show don’t tell’ approach, as I continue to trust the reader to add their own vision to my stories.

9. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

For the first draft, staying on course towards the end. Too many temptations to review and edit prior portions. Better to proceed to the end before fine-tuning the parts. After the first draft, the hard part was accepting feedback, especially related to removing extraneous scenes. Here you think you have the perfect child, and you hear that the kid needs to lose weight, and maybe get a haircut.

10. Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am creating an anthology of stories with the same two main characters (a South Jersey married couple) and a recurring supporting cast. The couple is a composite of myself and Paula, Dagwood and Blondie, and Nick and Nora Charles. The supporting cast includes the Jersey Devil (Herb, to his friends), the cat lady next door, Wawa clerks, diners, and other Jersey institutions.

11. Do you have advice for any other writers?

Always outline, always expect the process to be more difficult than imagined, always expect to be thrilled that you’ve taken a concept from beginning to end and produced an offspring that will outlive you.

12. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Yes, enjoy the experience and feel free to provide feedback. Reviews are the life-blood of writing. They help the writer to see the work beyond their narrow perspective. If the story hasn’t grabbed you, let the author know.

13. What was your best support during the writing process?

I joined the South Jersey Writers’ Group in 2013, then, shortly afterwards, The Writers Coffeehouse. In both groups, writers, agents, freelancers, etc., in various stages of producing stories, share their experience, successes, stumbling blocks and advice.
I also joined a critique group which reviewed my ongoing work and provided feedback and support. It also allowed me to see the work of others and understand different approaches to writing.

Cover_The Long Harbor Testament

Read our review for The Long Harbor Testament by Tom Minder

Unchained Melody by Cynthia Roberts


Unchained Melody is a short, sweet book about two people who seem destined to communicate no better than teenagers. They have an instant attraction when they meet in a restaurant. Immediately, he is called away and she watches as his car is involved in a horrific accident. Unable to stop herself, she rescues him, putting herself in danger.

Their relationship scrapes along with the occasional misunderstanding. When I say scrapes I am likening it to nails on a chalkboard. I found their miscommunications immature and aggravating. It also has the obligatory sex scenes. In one scene Pamela discovers Gavin likes to go commando, which makes her quiver with lust. All it made me think was the man was too slow to do his laundry. Another scene that gave me hope that the author was attempting to be humorous was when they were inclosed in the driver’s glass cubicle of a tractor. Gavin drives it across the field, Pamela bouncing along in her glorious nudity as she rides him with abandon during the sexiest moment of her life.

After the first half of the book it gains momentum and there is quite a bit of action to go along with the inability to communicate. The other characters’, all family members, extreme joy in one another is somewhat off-putting. No family is free of someone putting their fat foot inside their mouth at one time or another. These people have such loving, mellow personalities they barely exist.

I found this book to be for beginning romance enthusiasts: expected beautiful, successful woman meets a handsome, rich man. The author did a good job of incorporating some story on Pamela’s job, but it was written with a sense of racing to the finish line, leaving this story feeling occasionally choppy. Our author is definitely talented, but the romance genre is a difficult one to write and there are so many that they tend to run together like a watercolor painting; hard to see where the good sections start, yet easy to see when it’s straight-up bad all over.

The grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – Romance, of course, for adults and maybe older teens.
  • Level of sexuality – High, although this is less graphic than almost all other romance novels. It still made a valiant effort.
  • Is there graphic language? I was surprised by how contained it was. The most that I remember is someone giving the one-finger salute.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? Yes. There was the memorable ride across the field.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, the Love Song Standards Series.
  • Level of character development – None.

I give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars for effort.

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Crashed: Siren’s Call by Kerri Ann


As the title ‘Crashed’ implies, this is not an easy read and deals with the aftermath of the first book in this phenomenal series. It has moments of beauty, pain, anger, regret, and caused me a lot of frustration. After finishing Casper’s Ghost, I was dying to get my hands on this one. The wait was blessedly short, but still felt too long, as I was overwhelmed with the need to know what happened next.

The story is the opposite of the first book. While Casper’s Ghost had a good deal of interaction, this one focuses on the individuals. I was thrilled that China saw a lot more action. She’s a magnificent character and now I’m anxiously waiting for her book to come out. The first allowed readers a hint at her strong, sassy character, but this one did her justice, allowing her the freedom to become a fully fledged member of the series. Whiskey is another nice touch, although he is not included in much, I got a good sense of his upbringing and his reasoning behind his decision to stay away from the Crown family. Their stories will be wonderful additions to this series.

I admit I was frustrated for a long while. I had expected more one-on-one between Wyatt and Circe, but the story is so much more than that. It is the back story and emotions of each character outside of their relationship and how it affects them as an ‘us’. Wyatt is allowed a lot of time for introspection and, due to his manic depression, suffers a lot with his heightened emotions. It was difficult to read about his struggles to survive and deal with his past and his regrets. I was ecstatic to finally discover the secret of Circe’s past. It was brutal and brought tears to my eyes. The fact that these lovers are kept apart while they deal with these issues is a strength to the story, even though I longed desperately for them to come back together. It was more than worth the wait.

The story is well-done, but it is the author’s writing and connection to her characters that really drew me in. I could feel what they were feeling and it is apparent that the author was fully invested, loving them as much as I do. This is not your typical love story and must be read after Casper’s Ghost, but is a perfect finish for their tale. The story is quick and short, but fulfilling. I did not want for anything, as this book had it all. When I came to the end I was sad that it was over, but I was relieved to finally see the power of their love.

Now, for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Romance for adults.
  • Level of sexuality – There was one scene that was rather graphic, but it was mellow compared to the first book. The focus was not on sex, but it was touched upon.
  • Is there graphic language? You betcha.
  • Did I cry? There were definitely moments that pulled at my heart-strings.
  • Did I laugh? Not this time. It was far too serious.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, it is book two in the Crown and Anchor series.
  • Level of character development – The characters are extremely well done and the fact that this book focuses more on the emotional aspects of each one, allowed me to connect with them. They are consistent the entire way through without any weaknesses in the plot.

I love the series and I love this book. It is a perfect follow-up for Casper’s Ghost and is unique in its own beautiful way. It opened my eyes to the mental anguish of someone with Wyatt’s condition and the aftermath of a great tragedy. I’m excited to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. This is one that will stick with me.

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