Spices & Seasons

Spices & Seasons
Spices & Seasons

Little Penhaven

Little Penhaven
One Summer in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Open Portal- by Michael Scott Clifton- Feature and Review + Giveaway

Conquest of the Veil #1
Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Magical Realism Publisher: Book Lift off Publication Date: May 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 337 pages


But with dreams, there can also be nightmares Lonely and plain-featured, Mona Parker is just another faceless teenager at Spring Hill High School. One day she runs afoul of Lady Anne Golightly, a beautiful and arrogant classmate who turns Mona’s colorless life into a hellish existence. Bullied relentlessly and with nowhere to turn, Mona considers suicide. One night, Thaddeus Finkle, her guardian angel, appears. He offers her a way out—swap lives with another.

The choice seems easy, and Mona takes the angel up on his offer. She awakens on Meredith, a parallel world of Earth where magic has replaced technology. Mona discovers she is Alexandria, a woman of breathtaking beauty, and the daughter of a Duke complete with servants and riches. Then she discovers the price of her bargain. Trapped behind the Veil, an impenetrable curtain of magic, the Duchy of Wheel is the last major province still unconquered by Marlinda, the creator of the enchanted barrier. Known as the Dark Queen, Marlinda’s cruelty includes a singular fondness for melding men, women, and children, with animalsand she has special plans for Alexandria. Tal, the Prince and Heir of the Empire of Meredith, burns with an intense hatred for Marlinda and her minions. The Dark Queen’s raiders regularly cross the Veil to prey upon the helpless citizens living near the magical boundary. Despite an elaborate system of Watch Towers along the enchanted barrier, it is impossible for the Empire to stop all the raids. Desperate to protect his people, Tal takes dangerous risks to prevent these attacks. Banished to a remote garrison for his reckless behavior, while on a routine patrol, Tal leads an elite unit that happens upon a group of raiders—one whose leader possesses the means for opening a way through the Veil. Thus begins the conquest of the Veil.

"The Open Portal is packed full of action from the time it begins in our mundane world, to when it jumps to another. It has all the elements of a good fantasy: a cruel queen; a frustrated prince; and beautiful girl with a pure heart. There are brave boys, werewolves, white priests, and watchtowers. I can't wait for the saga to continue." -- Abookanight

The Open PortalThe Open Portal by Michael Scott Clifton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Open Portal by Michael Scott Clifton is a 2019 Book Lift Off publication.

An intriguing start for this new fantasy series-

Mona is an orphaned teenager with a special needs brother. She is bullied incessantly by the ‘mean girls’ at school and has a very negative self -image. When she is nearly at the breaking point, her guardian angel, Thaddeus Finkle, offers her an alternative.

Believing she will be given the opportunity to make a real difference in her life, she agrees to switch places with another person, leaving Texas in the rearview mirror to live on ‘Meredith’, becoming Alexandria, the daughter of a Duke.

However, she will soon realize she is trapped behind an impenetrable barrier, put in place by an evil sorceress.

Meanwhile, Tal, who is the heir to the Meredith Empire, has been sent to a secluded garrison to cool his heels, in hopes of taming his impulsiveness. However, he stumbles across a group of raiders, whose leader may know of a way to pass through the veil.

Alexandria and Tal will eventually cross paths, setting the stage for an ongoing epic fantasy saga-

One thing is for sure- Michael Scott Clifton has a HUGE imagination! I truly enjoyed the first book I read by this author, so it didn’t take much to convince me to give this new series a try. However, to be completely honest, high fantasy is not my usual fare. Therefore, I may not be the best judge, as I am not as familiar with the genre.

For me, this first book in the series, probably by necessity, spends a lot of time on world building. All the main characters are introduced, and the reader gets a fair idea of their temperament and if we feel empathy for them or not. The scenery and landscapes are vividly described and there are even a few illustrations sprinkled throughout the book.

The story is an ambitious one, however, with three different scenarios and three different sets of cast members to keep up with. I must be totally honest here and admit that at times I felt the foundation was a little shaky. It takes a long while to see any progress on the convergence of these threads, and of course, by the time I’m finally beginning to get everything straight in my mind, the book comes to a ‘to be continued’ conclusion. ARRGGH!

However, I realize this is standard operating procedure within the fantasy realm, and I knew going in this first chapter in the series would set the stage for the real epic dramas to come.

It also crossed my mind a few times, while reading this book, that this one just might appeal to readers who enjoy YA Fantasy. I’m no expert on what passes for YA these days, but I’m told that if the main character is a teenager or young adult, then that qualifies, even if the book is more geared towards an adult reading audience. So, I’m just going to toss that out there.

There are a few poignant moral lessons involved in the story, too, giving it a touch of emotional depth amid the intrigue and adventure.

Overall, this first installment has piqued my curiosity. I am very interested in seeing how all of this is going to play out, and of course, I’m already attached to Mona/Alexandria and will have to see if the ‘guardian angel’ has her best interest at heart.

I wholeheartedly recommend this one to fans of high fantasy. I think you will want to get in on the ground floor of this new series, which shows a great deal of potential.


Michael Scott Cliftona public educator for over thirty-eight years as a teacher, coach, and administrator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie and family cat, Sadie. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, he enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys...action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. His fantasy novel, The Janus Witch, received a 5-Star review from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews, and he has been a finalist in a number of short story contests with Edges of Gray winning first place in the Texas Authors Contest. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. Clifton’s latest book, The Open Portal, launches the fantasy book series, Conquest of the Veil. In addition, look for the YA novel, Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator, to be released soon. He is available public speaking.
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One Summer in Penhaven- by Angela Britnell- Feature and Review


Could one summer change your life?

When high-flying American lawyer Samantha Muir finds out she’s lost her partnership whilst on an assignment in London, she has a dramatic reaction. 
Rather than returning home, she resigns, leaves her business suits behind and jumps on the first train to Cornwall at the encouragement of a friendly stranger. 
The village of Little Penhaven, where Samantha eventually ends up, is a world away from her life in Knoxville, Tennessee – and local farmer Cadan Day is certainly a world away from any man she has met before. But could the Cornish village and Cadan play a part in Samantha’s summer of self-discovery?



One Summer in Little PenhavenOne Summer in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One Summer in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell is a 2019 Choc Lit publication.

A very satisfying story!

Samantha is passed over for a partnership in her law firm. Burnt out and beyond angry, she makes an impulsive, on the spot decision. She turns in her resignation, hops on a train to Cornwall, where she eventually lands in Little Penhaven. Upon her arrival, she meets Caden Day, a man with a bad reputation.

But, the more she gets to know him, the more she is convinced he’s a good guy carrying a very heavy burden and a lot of sadness in his heart. To complicate matters, Caden is stunned to discover his brother, Jory has gotten married to a young woman named, Fliss, who seems accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle. Jory needs Caden's support in more ways than one - however, Caden often remains surly and bitter.

Meanwhile, Samantha needs to figure out what she wants to do with her life, especially with her parents breathing down her neck. But, with each passing day, Samantha falls deeper in love with Penhaven and with Caden Day.

Going out on a limb here, I would say that at one time or another we’ve all been tempted to up and leave our jobs and make a fresh start. Of course, in real life, it’s not that simple, and it seldom works out the way it does in books.

But still, it was fun to live vicariously through Sam. She took a gamble and it paid off in all the ways that count.

I also grew to care for Jory and Fliss, although at first, I was a little worried about Jory’s maturity level. Fliss rises to the occasion, proving her mettle, which won my respect.

However, despite Samantha’s landing the starring role in this drama, it was Caden’s story that really packs a punch.

At the end of the day I was very pleased with how things worked out. Each of the characters worked on personal growth, faced their fears, regrets, and disappointments and learned to forgive, accept, and move forward.

The moral of the story is that there are always two sides to a story. Beware of judging someone without all the facts!! The prominent theme of having faith in someone and believing in them, even when everyone else has presumed the worst, is a positive lesson for all of us!

Faith, Friendship, Forgiveness, Hope- and of course True Love- what else could you ask for?

A terrific book for a day at the beach!!






Angela grew up in Cornwall and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee to visit family and friends, drink tea and eat far too many Cornish pasties! 

A lifelong love of reading turned into a passion for writing contemporary romance and her novels are usually set in the many places she's visited or lived on her extensive travels. Thanks to over three decades of marriage to her wonderful American husband she's a huge fan of transatlantic romance and always makes sure her characters get their own happy-ever-after.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, the Romance Writers of America and the Music City Romance Writers. 

If you'd like to find out more of what Angela gets up to (warning this may include references to wine, chocolate and the hunky Aidan Turner) check out www.angelabritnellromance.com or follow her on www.facebook.com/angelabritnell and www.twitter.com/angelabritnell

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton - Feature and Review


Written in Lauren Denton's signature Southern style, Glory Roadtells the story of three generations of women navigating the uncertain pathways of their hearts during a summer that promises to bring change--whether they're ready for it or not.

At thirty-eight, garden shop owner Jessie McBride thinks her chances for romance are years behind her and, after her failed marriage, she's fine with that. She lives contentedly with her fiery mother and her quiet, headstrong daughter. But the unexpected arrival of two men on Glory Road make her question if she's really happy with the status quo. Handsome, wealthy Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter's wedding, and Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. And Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school days who's known her better than anyone and whom she hasn't seen in years, moves back to the red dirt road. Jessie finds her heart being pulled in directions she never expected.

Meanwhile, Jessie's fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and trying to navigate a new world of identity and emotions--particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who's moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie's mother, Gus, increasingly finds herself forgetful and faces a potentially frightening future.

As all three women navigate the uncertain paths of their hearts and futures, one summer promises to bring change--whether they're ready for it or not.



Glory RoadGlory Road by Lauren K. Denton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton is a 2019 Thomas Nelson publication.

A sweet and gentle southern story about family and second chances.

Jessie McBride is content with her life as it is. She owns a garden shop, is raising her non-conformist daughter, Evan, and is trying to manage her headstrong mother, Gus. The thought of romance has long since left the arena, and Jessie is just fine with that.

But a few life altering changes occur shaking up Jessie’s quiet and peaceful life. First, wealthy and successful Sumner Tate asks Jessie to do the flowers for his daughter’s wedding. Reluctant at first, Jessie is swayed by Sumner’s smooth and easy- going charm. However, she is knocked for loop when her old friend, Ben returns home with his teenage son in tow. Her old feelings for Ben rush to the surface, but rumor has it, Ben as girlfriend living in another city.

This is my first book by Lauren K. Denton, and I must say I very much enjoyed this charming story. Life is full of change- some good, some bad, some scary, some sad. This story touches on all those things, but the tone is pleasant, never too heavy, despite the seriousness of the subject matter at times. The romance is clean, with just a small dollop of angst. The theme is centered around a mature, and deep abiding love, which was beautiful and felt very authentic.

I loved all the characters, the setting, the gardening tips included at the beginning of each chapter and the humor injected along the way. Gus nearly steals the show a time or two and was the character I formed a real attachment to. But, the real cherry on the cake was that adorable conclusion!

This is just one of those truly lovely stories that rewards the reader for their time with a spirit boost, a warm feeling of contentment and hope.






Lauren K. Denton is the USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon Charts bestselling author of THE HIDEAWAY, HURRICANE SEASON, and GLORY ROAD. Her books have received widespread accolades, including...

*Southern Living's 25 Beach Reads Perfect for Summer
*Deep South Magazine's 2019 Spring Reading Picks and 2018 Summer Reading List
*Woman's World Book Club's Week's Best Fiction
*BuzzBooks 2019 Spring/Summer Great Reads
*Travel + Leisure Ten Spring Reads That Will Make Winter a Distant Memory
*BuzzBooks 2018 Spring/Summer Reads
*Southern Living Spring Break Reads
*Bookpage 2018 Most Anticipated Books

Combining a love of Deep South settings, a generous dose of Southern flavor and humor, and heartwarming romance, Lauren pens stories that chronicle women’s journeys towards truth and love, hope and healing.

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. Though her husband tries valiantly to turn her into a mountain girl, she'd still rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.

Visit Lauren at www.laurenkdenton.com
facebook.com/lauren.kofflerdenton twitter.com/LaurenKDenton,

Monday, May 20, 2019

MANGA MONDAY- Practically Married by Christine Rimmer and Eve Takigawa- Feature and Review


When Zach and Tess got married, everyone was overjoyed and thought they were the perfect couple. Quiet, strong and reliable Zach was looking for a wife, while hardworking single mother Tess needed a new husband to support her family. But Tess secretly pines for another man. Too bad Zach has caught on.


Practically MarriedPractically Married by Eve Takigawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Practically Married by Eve Takigawa- Illustrator and Christine Rimmer is a 2017 Harlequin Books and SB Creations publication.

Oh, my goodness! I love Christine Rimmer!!

I've read many of her books over the years, so when I saw this Harlequin Manga book based on one of her old novels I had to have it. It took me a few tries to find one of these Harlequin comics that had a great story to go with the awesome artwork, However, part of the problem was that I didn't realize most of these Harlequin Manga Comics are based on stories written ages and ages ago.

I don't know why that is, but if there are newer Harlequin novels being formatted to the Manga format, I've yet to discover one.

So, now that I understand how it works, and know what to expect going in, I'm finding these books can be a whole lot fun, even if the story is occasionally cringe worthy.

This book, does feature a few old fashioned qualities that might cause the modern reader to scoff, just a little, but overall, this is a pretty solid 'friends to lovers' romance.

But, of course, this is a Manga, so the real main feature is the artwork. As always, the artwork is terrific, and really does make the story feel unique and even refreshes a book written way back in 1998.

I do enjoy reading older books once in a while and reading them in this format puts a fresh spin on reading retro-romance novels, making it seem like an all new experience.

This one was especially fun because I'm such a big fan of this author. 😊

                                                 ORIGINAL PAPERBACK COVER:







New York Times bestselling author Christine Rimmer has written more than one hundred contemporary romances for Harlequin Books. She has won Romantic Times BOOKreview’s Reviewer’s Choice Award for best Silhouette Special Edition. She has been nominated seven times for the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award and five times for Romantic Times Series Storyteller of the Year. 

A California native who first longed to be an actress, Christine earned her theater degree from California State, Sacramento and then went to New York to study acting. Later, she moved to Southern California, where she began her writing career with short stories, plays, and poems. Her poems and short stories were published in a number of small literary journals. Her plays were produced at The Back Alley and Group Theaters in Southern California and have been published by Dramatists Play Service and West Coast Plays.

She now lives in Oregon with her family and two very contented cats named Tom and Ed. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Gone South by Robert McMammon- Feature and Review


Flooded by memories, poisoned by the deadly fallout of Agent Orange, and desperate for work, Dan Lambert kills a man in a moment of blind fear and fury. It is an act he cannot excuse--a mistake that will change his life forever. Now Dan is on the run, heading south toward the Louisiana bayous. On his trail are police officers and bounty hunters, including the most memorable and bizarre team ever paired in modern fiction: Pelvis Eisley, an Elvis impersonator of the worst kind, and Flint Murtaugh, a fastidious, ruthluss loner and freak-show refugee who carries the body of his unformed twin brother on his side.

As Dan heads down into the swampland in search of his own salvation, he meets a young woman who is on a similar journey. Like Dan, Arden Halliday bears a great burden--a disfiguring purple birthmark that blankets half her face. Wounded by the stares, by the pity and revulsion, she is making her way into the bayous to search of the Bright Girl--a legendary faith healer who will rid her of her birthmark and her suffering. Though on separate missions, Arden and Dan come to respect each other's quest for freedom, for a touch of simple kindness in a world grown cruel. Thrown together by circumstance, bound by a loyalty stranger than love, they set off on a journey of relentless suspense and impassioned discovery...an odyssey over dark, twisting road and waterways into the beautiful and mysterious depths of the human heart.



Gone SouthGone South by Robert R. McCammon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gone South by Robert R McCammon was published in 1992 is 392 pages long.

Dan Lambert is a Vietnam vet down on his luck. He's divorced, out of work, and sick. His bills are piling up and he is several months behind on his truck payment. When he goes to the bank to speak to the loan manager about working something out so he can keep his truck, he finds a world of trouble. The new bank manager won't give Dan some breathing room and Dan loses his temper. Before it's all said and done a man is killed and Dan is on the run.

Dan's plan is to leave the country. Along the way, Dan's situation goes from bad to worse. A reward has been placed for his capture and two bounty hunters, as well as cops from all over are on the lookout for Dan.

Dan also meets up with some other folks in need of help and in search of their own peace.
Arden, born with a birthmark that has made her life miserable is in search of a faith healer that will heal her. When her path intersects with Dan's, the two of them start on a journey that will hopefully see them finding the love and purpose and peace they are looking for - If they make it there that is.

I've only read one other book by Robert R. McCammon and that was some years ago. (I do vividly remember parts of it of it though .) This one sounded a lot different from anything else he had written and I wasn't really sure if I would like it.

The author's work is often placed in the "horror" genre, but this book is not your typical horror or fantasy. Actually, I don't know what genre it fits in for sure.  Basically, it was just a good story.

Perhaps, a little adventure, some action, some criminal activity, and some drama. In the end, there is an awesome happily ever after.

I buddy read this book with my husband. We both liked it a lot. We were a little perplexed because we kept waiting for some kind of heavy supernatural development that never came, But, one can decide for themselves about the conclusions, which may have a paranormal hint.

 There was never much of a dull moment, and the book is compulsively readable.  If you like feel good stories that appeal to everyone, you will like this one.






Robert Rick McCammon was a full-time horror writer for many years. Among his many popular novels were the classics Boy's Life and Swan Song. After taking a hiatus for his family, he returned to writing with an interest in historical fiction.

McCammon resides in Birmingham, Alabama. He is currently working on the eighth Matthew Corbett novel, The King of Shadows.