A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, May 31, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge - Feature and Review


The international bestseller that “grabs the reader by the throat" (Crime Time).
First in the new series featuring Detective Inspector Helen Grace.

Two people are abducted, imprisoned, and left with a gun. As hunger and thirst set in, only one walks away alive.

It’s a game more twisted than any Detective Inspector Helen Grace has ever seen. If she hadn’t spoken with the shattered survivors herself, she almost wouldn’t believe them.

Helen is familiar with the dark sides of human nature, including her own, but this case—with its seemingly random victims—has her baffled. But as more people go missing, nothing will be more terrifying than when it all starts making sense....




Eeny Meeny (Helen Grace, #1)Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge – A Helen Chase Novel- is a 2015 NAL publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is my kind of thriller! Dark, twisty, with nail biting suspense!

Detective Inspector, Helen Grace, has her hands full when a diabolical serial killer begins abducting people in pairs, dumping them in a dive pool, with a cell phone, and gun provided. The hostages will receive one call informing them, they only have the option of survival only if they kill their fellow prisoner. Initially, they fight to live, but after weeks of starvation, eventually, one of them will crack.

As usual, office politics rears its ugly head, and it becomes clear a mole is leaking vital information, causing Helen to mistrust some of her best detectives. Then too, the reader will have to decipher Helen's own personal demons, which are very difficult to process.

This book is not for the faint of heart. The subject matter is disturbing and the violence is quite graphic. Readers  won't be able to avoid having an emotional reaction to the games the killer is playing. Not only is this a gritty crime dramas, but it also has psychological elements.  My mind was all over the place, being led around by the nose, just like the characters in the book. It was a mind trip, an emotional roller coaster, with a shocking conclusion.

The story moved along at a quick pace, keeping me glued to my kindle. I even experienced a feeling of annoyance when I was interrupted a few times while reading this book. I couldn't put it down!

I didn't know how to feel about Helen Chase, to be honest. I have read many dark thrillers where the male protagonist has some dark past or haunting demons, and many female detectives that came from harsh circumstances, but never a female lead like Helen, who has some pretty disturbing habits. It will be interesting to see how her character develops from here on out. It's been a long time since I have read a serial killer novel this original. This is not a formulaic procedural!






M.J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last 15 years, specialising in high end drama production. Arlidge has produced a number of prime-time crime serials for ITV In the last five years, and is currently working on a major adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans for the BBC.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Murder with Cucumber Sandwiches by Karen Rose Smith- Feature and Review


Restaurant critic Derek Schumaker, notorious for his bitter reviews, is about to visit Daisy's Tea Garden, and Daisy and Aunt Iris are simmering with anxiety. A bad word from the culinary curmudgeon could really hurt their business, but Daisy tries to stay confident. After all, how can he resist her cucumber sandwiches with pimento spread -- not to mention the cheesy cauliflower soup and strawberry walnut salad? Schumaker takes a to-go order when the afternoon tea service is done, which Daisy hopes is a good sign. But when he perishes from a seizure, it looks like his food was dosed with something deadly. Considering a threat that recently appeared on his blog -- and whispers of scandal in his past -- Daisy has quite an assortment of suspects to sift through... 



Murder with Cucumber Sandwiches (Daisy's Tea Garden Mystery #3)Murder with Cucumber Sandwiches by Karen Rose Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murder with Cucumber Sandwiches by Karen Rose Smith is a 2019 Kensington publication.

Buckle up folks, there is a lot going on in this third installment of the Daisy Tea Garden Series.

For starters, famed food critic Derek Schumaker is all set to write a review of Daisy’s Tea Garden, but before he can post his critique on his popular blog, he is murdered. Not only that, Foster, who happens to be dating Violet, Daisy’s oldest daughter, has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Worried that the suspicions about the timing of the murder and the role her cucumber sandwiches, played in Derek’s demise, will hurt her business, Daisy is determined to help solve the mystery, despite the clear warnings from our not so favorite detective to stay out of the way.

Meanwhile, Jazzi may be setting herself up for disappointment after her birth mother promises to finally tell her husband, she has a daughter she never told him about. But, that’s not all- just as Jonas and Daisy’s relationship begins to solidify a little more, a sudden, shocking turn of events sends Daisy and her entire family into a tailspin.

Whew!! There was never a dull moment in this book, that’s for sure. This mystery is very intriguing, with many suspects to choose from. It would seem Derek’s harsh reviews made him a few enemies along the way.

There is no way I could have possibly guessed who the murderer was! In fact, this was one of the most puzzling cases I’ve encountered in a cozy mystery in a long time.

Yet one of the things that makes this series so solid is the family drama which gets equal billing in the book. Daisy’s personal life is more complicated than ever before, as nearly every person she cares about is encountering a crisis of some sort. While she tries to save the tea garden’s reputation, she is also coping with heavy personal problems, and her ability to remain calm and balance everything on her plate quickly becomes tenuous.

I read this book in one sitting! I couldn’t put it down without finding out what was going to happen next.

I’ve been neglecting my cozy series for a while now, not consciously, though. This book has reminded me of just how much I enjoy reading them! This series is really starting to gel, as the characters develop, and I find myself starting to care for them. Karen Rose Smith has become one my ‘go to’ cozy mystery writers in the past few years. While she writes contemporary romance novels as well, I think she’s really found her niche in this genre!





Award-winning author Karen Rose Smith was born in Pennsylvania. Although she was an only child, she remembers the bonds of an extended family. Family is a strong theme in her books and she suspects her childhood memories are the reason. 

She has written for Meteor/Kismet, Kensington, Silhouette and Harlequin. Readers can contact Karen through her website, on Facebook (Karen Rose Smith Author) and on Twitter @ Karenrosesmith.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Night Tiger by Yangzse Choo- Feature and Review


Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick, Amazon Spotlight Pick for Best Book of the Month, NYTimes and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller. Starred Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher's Weekly reviews.

A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

When 11-year-old Ren's master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master's soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother's Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin's dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren's lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.



The Night TigerThe Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo is a 2019 Flatiron publication.

A big, bold story full of magic, romance, mystery and adventure!!

Set in Malaysia during the 1930’s, the story alternates between Ren, an eleven -year old Chinese houseboy and Ji Lin, a young woman who has been forced to give up her goal of working in the medical profession. Ren is on a mission to find his late master’s finger so he can return it to his grave. Failure to do so within 49 days will prevent his master from resting in peace. Meanwhile, Ji Lin, is working as a dressmaker, while also secretly moonlighting as a dance hall girl to pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts, before her hardened stepfather finds out.

When Ji Lin comes into possession of a severed finger, she implores her stepbrother, Shin, to help her return it to its rightful owner. Thus, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives will begin to converge. While the clock ticks away within the 49 -day time frame, a tiger is on the prowl wreaking havoc on the city of Malaysia.

There is a lot going on in this book and because it’s not exactly my usual fare, I was forced to take my time and slowly absorb all the details patiently, as the pieces of the puzzle begin to click into place. I found myself completely caught up in the story, in the folklore and magic realism, the family dramas and mystery. I was loath to put the book aside, but still wanted to draw it out and relish the tension and adventure.

Unfortunately, I did have a few issues with the book. One thing I noticed was some repetitiveness in the dialogue. It was especially noticeable when I was listening to portions of the book on audio.

The other problem I had was that while I placed a hold on both the e book and the audiobook at my library at the same time, the audio version became available first. However, I had to pause the audio until the e book became available because I found it very difficult to follow along. The author narrates the book, but the inflections and voice changes were not strong enough or distinct enough for me, and the switch in narratives often caught me off guard. Once I had a digital copy of the book, however, the story came to life and I was able to switch between reading and listening seamlessly.

I love historical fiction, but rarely reach for books with magical realism elements. I’m a little picky about that genre but do enjoy it from time to time. I do love folklore, though, so in this case, the two genres complement one another beautifully. Now, I’m wondering why I don’t read more of these types of books and am thinking maybe I should lower my defenses and try reading more of them. I will definitely check out Choo’s first novel and anything she writes in the future.

This book should appeal to a broad audience as it embodies several different popular genres and creates an insular world with its intense urgency and emotional content. While I did read some stellar reviews for this book, I couldn’t have imagined what kind of journey I was about to embark on, but it is a journey I will not soon forget.






Yangsze Choo is a fourth generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. Due to a childhood spent in various countries, she can eavesdrop (badly) in several languages. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a management consultant before writing her first novel. Yangsze eats and reads too much, and often does both at the same time. You can follow her blog at http://yschoo.com/ or on Twitter @yangszechoo

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Soldier's Return by RaeAnne Thayne- Feature and Review

A Soldier's Return


Returning home to Cannon Beach and living in Brambleberry House, a place where good things seemed destined to happen, had brought Melissa Fielding and her young daughter such joy. Perhaps it was no accident when the single mom “bumped” into Eli Sanderson, and discovered the handsome doctor was also back in town. The ex-soldier was still so captivating, but also more guarded. Was now the time to put old ghosts to rest?



A Soldier's ReturnA Soldier's Return by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Soldier’s Return by RaeAnne Thayne is a 2019 Harlequin Special Edition publication.

A tender, sweet medical romance-

After her divorce from her selfish, immature, ‘surfer dude' husband, Melissa Fielding, returns home to Cannon Beach, with her young daughter. She now works in the medical profession, living in the Brambleberry House- a very special residence.

While walking her neighbor’s dog, she has a run in with her old classmate and her boss’s son, Eli Sanderson. With old Doc Sanderson out of commission for a while, Eli will be taking over for his father, which means that for all intents and purposes Eli is Melissa’s boss- even if it is only temporary.

That doesn’t stop Melissa from feeling flustered around Eli. He’s not the nerdy guy she knew in high school anymore. He’s a soldier, fighting off the nightmares of war casualties, feeling like it is his duty to continue to serve in the Army.

For Eli, meeting the girl he had a crush on in high school has reignited his feeling for Melissa. But he knows his stay is temporary and he is no place for a relationship.

How will the pair manage to work together every day and ignore their attraction to each other?

Full disclosure- I added this book to my TBR list without reading the synopsis first. I have always enjoyed this author’s books, so I figured this one was probably a safe bet.

The book is published by Harlequin Special Edition, not Harlequin Medical - two entirely different imprints- so I was pleasantly surprised by the strong medical elements in the story. I’m also a sucker for military guys, so in many ways this book was a perfect fit for me.

The story also has a very mild paranormal element, which I found intriguing. However, it was too vague and I'm wondering if I missed out on some key information by not reading the previous books in the series, which was a bit of a drawback for me.

But, to be clear, this book can most definitely be read as a stand-alone. That said, I hope to eventually read all the books in the series, not only to see how the other residents of Brambleberry House get their HEA, but to discover all the other mysteries of the house, as well.

Overall, this is a very nice contemporary romance, made better for me due to the medical drama, and military themes.

An emotional second chance love story, cute kids and dogs turned out to be a pretty solid combination, as well.





RaeAnne Thayne

I'm not one of those people who knew from birth she was destined to become a writer. I always loved to read and throughout my childhood I could usually be found with a book in my hands. To the disgust of my friends, I even enjoyed creative writing assignments that made them all groan. But I had other dreams besides writing. I wanted to be an actress or a teacher or a lawyer.

Life took a different turn for me, though, when my mother made me take a journalism elective in high school (thanks, Mom!). I knew the first day that this was where I belonged.

After I graduated from college in journalism, I took a job at the local daily newspaper and I reveled in the challenge and the diversity of it. One day I could be interviewing the latest country music star, the next day I was writing about local motorcycle gangs or interviewing an award-winning scientist.

Through it all -- through the natural progression of my career from reporter to editor -- I wrote stories in my head. Not just any stories, either, but romances, the kind of books I have devoured since junior high school, with tales about real people going through the trials and tribulations of life until they find deep and lasting love.

I had no idea how to put these people on paper, but knew I had to try -- their stories were too compelling for me to ignore. I sold my first book in 1995 and now, more than 30 books later, I've come to love everything about writing, from the click of the computer keys under my fingers to the "that's-it!" feeling I get when a story is flowing.

I write full-time now (well, as full-time as I can manage juggling my kids!) amid the raw beauty of the northern Utah mountains.

Even though I might not have dreamed of being a writer when I was younger, now I simply can't imagine my life any other way.

I love to hear from readers. You can reach me at my email address, raeannethayne@gmail.com

Monday, May 27, 2019

MANGA MONDAY- Archie Vol 1- The New Riverdale- by Mark Waid- Feature and Review


America’s Favorite Teenager, Archie Andrews, is reborn in the pages of this must-have graphic novel collecting the first six issues of the comic book series that everyone is talking about. Meet Riverdale High teen Archie, his oddball, food-loving best friend Jughead, girl-next-door Betty and well-to-do snob Veronica Lodge as they embark on a modern reimagining of the beloved Archie world. It’s all here: the love triangle, friendship, humor, charm and lots of fun – but with a decidedly modern twist.

Brought to you by some of the masters of the comic book genre, including writer Mark Waid and the all-star lineup of artists: Fiona Staples, Annie Wu and Veronica Fish, the first volume of ARCHIE presents readers with a new take on the beloved Archie Comics concepts while retaining the best elements from the company’s 75 years of history. ARCHIE VOL. 1 collects ARCHIE #1-6 and features bonus content including scripts, sketches, variant covers and the full first issue of the all new JUGHEAD series by acclaimed writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson.


Archie, Vol. 1: The New RiverdaleArchie, Vol. 1: The New Riverdale by Mark Waid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Archie, Vol 1- The New Riverdale by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples (Illustrator), Annie Wu (Illustrator), Veronica Fish (Illustrator) is a 2016 Archie Comics publication.

As an old timer, I grew up eagerly awaiting the Sunday paper so I could read the color comic section. Archie was one of my favorites, as were the cartoons which aired on television Saturday or Sunday. I may have even owned a few Archie Comics at one time.

When my kids were growing up, however, the comics and cartoons etc., they were interested in were vastly different. I didn’t keep up with the comic trends and didn’t understand the furor over graphic novels until recently.

Learning about graphic novels, comics and manga has been very interesting, and fun. I have discovered some subscription services – one for Marvel Comics, one for Archie Comics and of course, ComiXology. I’ve stuck with the latter for starters since it has a nice mix of everything, as I am still experimenting.

I think the Marvel Comics material pretty much speaks for itself and I would expect nothing less than the best in writers, art, and presentation. But I’ve been curious about the Archie comics, wondering what made the imprint so wildly popular.

Well, now I know.

This is an updated version, or reboot, if you will, of the classic Archie comics, but never fear, the changes aren’t THAT radical. This is still benign teenage fare- or at least it is, so far. The love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica, the hunger-gut, Jughead, and other favorite characters are here, along with a few new ones. The stories included in the first collection are original and the added elements of diversity and inclusivity are only fitting.

The graphics and art blew me away! Wow! Amazing, vivid colorization. The novel works better than any graphic novel I’ve tried reading on my Kindle. I can see the dialogue easily, and I loved that the author had respect for the old school Archie comics, maintaining the same atmosphere, but obviously resonating with the modern reader. It still brought back fond memories.

Overall, this collection was great fun and I’m going to make an effort to continue on with the series, although it is most definitely geared towards teens and the YA audience.

I can’t lie and tell you I didn’t get into the love triangle, or that I didn’t chuckle at the angst and drama or find the story wildly entertaining. So, I’m all in!




Mark Waid (born March 21, 1962 in Hueytown, Alabama) is an American comic book writer. He is best known for his eight-year run as writer of the DC Comics' title The Flash, as well as his scripting of the limited series Kingdom Come and Superman: Birthright, and his work on Marvel Comics' Captain America.

Friday, May 24, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch- Feature and Review


Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son—except that the town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years’ War has finally ended, and there hasn’t been a witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.

Jakob Kuisl is charged with extracting a confession from her and torturing her until he gets one. Convinced she is innocent, he, Magdalena, and her would-be suitor race against the clock to find the true killer. Approaching Walpurgisnacht, when witches are believed to dance in the forest and mate with the devil, another tattooed orphan is found dead and the town becomes frenzied. More than one person has spotted what looks like the devil—a man with a hand made only of bones. The hangman, his daughter, and the doctor’s son face a terrifying and very real enemy.



The Hangman's Daughter (The Hangman's Daughter, #1)The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent historical thriller, set in Germany in the 1600s.  The story is centered around a hangman and his family. 

When a midwife is accused of witchcraft, the hangman tries to solve the mystery of who is killing young orphaned children, all bearing a strange symbol on their bodies.

The politics and superstitions of the time felt authentic and the mystery is impossible to guess. The suspense builds until you are on the edge of your seat!!

The book was translated from German to English. Very unique.






Oliver Pötzsch is a German writer and filmmaker. After high school, he attended the German School of Journalism in Munich from 1992 to 1997. He then worked for Radio Bavaria. In addition to his professional activities in radio and television, Pötzsch researched his family history. He is a descendant of the Kuisle, from the 16th to the 19th Century a famous dynasty of executioners in Schongau.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors by Rinku Bhattacharya- Feature and Review


Spices and Seasons, Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors

Rinku Bhattacharya combines her two great loves―Indian cooking and sustainable living―to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally, and flavorfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to blend Indian flavors into nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetizers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, and vegetables, to condiments, breads, and sweets. You’ll find recipes for tempting fare like “Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps,” “Roasted Red Pepper Chutney,” “Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub,” “Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree,” and “Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens,” to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Rinku encourages readers to explore the bounty of their local farms and markets, and embrace the rich flavors of India to cook food that is nutritious, healthy, seasonal and most importantly, delicious.


Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian FlavorsSpices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors by Rinku Bhattacharya
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spices and Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors by Rinku Bhattacharya is a 2014 Hippocrene Books publication.

Recently, my husband and I have been trying out more Indian recipes and are quickly becoming addicted to them.

Although I am still a novice, I do understand how very important the right spices are in Indian foods. However, beyond curry and turmeric, I wasn't all that familiar with the other mainstay spices and seasonings I might need or enjoy. So, this looked like a cookbook that would be informative and helpful to me.

However, I couldn’t have anticipated how wonderful this cookbook turned out to be!! Living in a small town in Texas, finding the spices and ingredients listed in many cookbooks is often a frustrating challenge. But, in this case I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the spices used in these delectable dishes, I already had in my pantry or were easy to locate locally.

The cookbook uses the standard organizational format, broken down in segments featuring appetizers, soups, breads, etc. However, she also divides the book into seasonal sections, which is also a very nice touch. Naturally, with the popularity of instant pots and the convenience of slow cooking, there are recipes added using these popular cooking aides, as well as other tools and equipment one might need or find useful, which is very helpful as well. Gluten free recipes are also included for those with special dietary needs.

The recipes are quite easy, and if you have a garden, many of the ingredients used might very well be right there in your own backyard. If not, they are most likely available in a farm market in your area.

The recipes are easy to follow, with colorful photos that had my mouth watering. I also enjoyed the author’s personal comments and family history, which made me feel as though she is a very down to earth person, who is very knowledgeable about these cultural dishes and the history behind many of them.

I have always found growing radishes and okra in my area to be very easy, but I always end up with an over abundance of them. Finding a creative use for them is not always easy. But I found a super easy way to spice up my radishes and okra, much to my delight!!

I am looking forward to trying out more recipes featured in this cookbook and will certainly return to it often.

Overall, if you are interested in learning how to make Indian food at home, or trying out new recipes that are very flavorful, healthy, and easy to make, you will find this cookbook very useful!!

View all my reviews

Purchase Links.

About Rinku Bhattacharya
Rinku Bhattacharya (spicechronicles.com) was born in India, and now lives in a house with a vibrant backyard in Hudson Valley, New York with her husband, an avid gardener, and their two children. Rinku’s simple, sustainable approach to Indian cooking is showcased on her blog, Spice Chronicles, and in her Journal News column “Spices and Seasons.”

Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past nine years, and works extensively with local area farmer’s markets on seasonal demonstrations and discussions. Rinku is also the author of The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles (Hippocrene Books, 2012), winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2013 for Best Indian Cuisine. She writes for the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Journal News, and several online sites, and is a frequent guest on CT Style TV.

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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MAY 14-24, 2019
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