March Quarterly Book Reviews, 2023

Free image courtesy OlgaVolkovitskaia on Pixabay.

This time last year, I began writing quarterly book reviews, and although I am not a book blogger per se, I’m happy to share with you what I’m reading and perhaps discover new authors together. This is especially true when it comes to the works of indie authors, like myself. Every little bit helps when it comes to spreading the word!

I’m slowly, but surely working my way through my book list, and I’m surprised to see some going back a number of years. I guess that’s always going to be the struggle of your average bookworm. 😉

Lying Beside You (Cyrus Haven #3) by Michael Robotham

I’ve read the first two books in this series, and once again, Michael Robotham has written another page-turner.

A man has been bludgeoned to death, and his daughter is missing. Cyrus is called on the case to help determine if she has been kidnapped or murdered. Meanwhile, his brother, Elias, is about to be released from psychiatric hospital after twenty years. Evie Cormac, a troubled young woman Cyrus has taken under his wing, gains employment in a pub, and becomes witness to an abduction.

I enjoyed the struggles both Cyrus and Evie faced, which at times were told with humour, while others were heart-warming. New characters have been introduced, which brings complexity and opportunities. As with the first two books, I listened to the audio version, where the narrator does a terrific job of bringing these characters to life.

Fast paced, great twists, and engaging characters, this is a worthy addition to the series.

The Haunting of Chatham Hollow by Mae Clair and Staci Troilo

In 1793, Ward Chatham lies on his deathbed, a rich, but bitter recluse. Delirious, he mutters broken phrases, which some believe is a curse brought towards the town. So begins The Haunting of Chatham Hollow, a dual timeline novel set between 1888, and 2022.

Of the two timelines, personally I enjoyed the 1888 setting. I liked these characters, both good and bad, and was fully invested in the séance scenes, and the incidents happening within the town, believed to be part of Chatham’s curse.

I don’t usually read books that have been co-authored, and I am unfamiliar with Mae Clair’s work, but this novel is not only well written, it flows easily, so that the reader cannot distinguish the different writing voices.

Well researched with engaging plot lines, if you enjoy mysteries with paranormal elements, I highly recommend The Haunting of Chatham Hollow.

Vampire of the Midnight Sun by Priscilla Bettis

Vampire of the Midnight Sun is a collection of two short stories, full of vivid descriptions and suspense.

The first story, Vampire of the Midnight Sun, sees two friends, Billy, and Frasier, stranded after a rafting accident in Alaska. They struggle for survival with no food or equipment. To add to their woes, Billy is convinced he is a vampire. Told from Frasier’s point of view, these characters are likeable, and at times, scary. Both the dialogue and the plot flows seamlessly, and I enjoyed the fresh take on the vampire myth. From the icy waters to the putrid smells, I felt I was walking alongside these characters. The author describes a beautiful, but harsh environment, while at the same time building the suspense so that I could feel the terror of their predicament.

The Fire Witch and the Cowboy is a story of the Old West, where a fire threatens a small town. Local man, Henderson, pleads for help from wealthy Widow Vandermeer, but her assistance may come at a price. I was engrossed with the description of the fire in this one, which is terrifying, and coupled with Henderson’s past, it is also quite sad.  I sympathised with him and found Widow Vandermeer a creepy old woman. Although I did enjoy this story, of the two, I would have to say Vampire of the Midnight Sun was my favourite.

I have read this author’s work before, and everything she writes goes to the top of my reading list. This book did not disappoint.

What books have you been reading so far this year? Have you discovered an author that is new to you? Do you have any recommendations to share?

Do You Find Inspiration through Nature?

Free image courtesy kretktz on Pixabay.

Authors are often asked where they get their inspiration. The answer to that question is quite simply ‘anywhere.’ It could be through real life experiences, a conversation, a news item, music, film, or an image. We can even be inspired by nature.

Growing up, I always appreciated being surrounded by nature, mainly the stillness of the bush or the sounds of waves crashing on the beach. Taking in the solitude instilled a calming effect, both physically and mentally. This is where I felt at peace. It is also where I would find my ‘muse.’

Last year, through one of my acupuncture sessions, I learned about nature meditation. I had never heard of the term before but was surprised because this is what I have doing since childhood. It could also explain why, whenever I feel stressed, I need to be alone and go for long walks (living in the country certainly helps with that).

Free image courtesy Artur Aldyrkhanov on Unsplash.

Recently, hubby and I went away for a few days. It was very relaxing, as our cabin was situated near the Blue Mountains. We were completely off-grid – no internet, television, or phone service. We were switched off from civilisation, which is something we both needed.

I enjoyed the peace and quiet, being with nature, encountering wild goats (yes, we have them in Australia), kangaroos, water dragons, one rather large goanna, and a couple of lyre birds. I made the most of it, and hubby had no problem with me wandering off on my own. I walked maybe 2-3 times a day. I also swam every day, which was great as I even had my own private swimming hole. Hubby came with me once, commenting on how deep it was, reminding me of one of my own short stories. I guess, having an imagination can be a curse sometimes! 😉

From these daily ventures amongst nature, and with nothing with me but my imagination, I found myself not only relaxed, but also my writing inspiration for the next twelve months.

Do you find inspiration through nature?  Writers, how do you find your ‘muse?’ Do you do nature meditation?

Black Mountain: Australia’s Bermuda Triangle.

Free image courtesy Kenan Sulayman on Unsplash.

Located in far north Queensland, Australia, sits a mountain of rocks, known as Black Mountain. It’s an eerie terrain, appearing all the more mysterious after rainfall, where the mass of granite boulders become darker. As far back as the late 1800s, people and animals have been recorded as missing, earning it the label Australia’s Bermuda Triangle.

In 1877, a farmer riding on horseback, searched the area for his missing cattle, but neither he, his horse or his cattle were ever seen again. Since then, gold miners, police, and Aboriginal trackers are known to have disappeared. In the 1920s, a couple of men attempted to solve the disappearances, only to have met the same fate.

There are, however, some documented cases where the missing have returned. In the 19th century, an Aboriginal tracker came back ‘completely unhinged,’ the lone survivor of a search team.  A gold miner was found next to his rifle with a bullet wound to the head, and a hiker was found dead from unknown causes. Such incidents have only added to its mystique.

Image of Black Mountain, Queensland, Australia, courtesy John Robert McPherson Wikimedia Commons. No changes made.

A sacred place for the local indigenous people of the area, they hold Black Mountain in great respect. One of the Dreamtime stories tell of a fight between two brothers who were in love with the same woman. They threw rocks at each other, culminating in their deaths, leaving behind the pile of stones.

Like Uluru, the indigenous community advise people not to climb Black Mountain. There have been cases where those who choose to ignore such warnings have become very ill. The Aboriginals believe they are being tormented by the spirit of their ancestors.

The topography of Black Mountain may explain the number of disappearances over the years, however, people who venture around the area speak of a supernatural presence and feelings of dread.

When it comes to Black Mountain, it may be wise to heed the warnings, and err on the side of caution.