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MindGames_med
Mind Games
 is the much awaited third installment in the new adult mystery series, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Talented author Christine Amsden keeps delivering a great story filled with interesting characters, romance, mystery, and the paranormal, lots of it.

In this episode, Cassie still doesn’t know why Evan broke her heart two months ago, and the mystery gnaws at her big time. She decides to keep busy and make herself useful at the sheriff’s department. She also meets charismatic mind mage Matthew Blair…much to Evan’s distaste. At the same time, Eagle Rock is teeming with hate from the religious community, a reaction to the recent murder of a much-esteemed pastor’s wife by what the people believe was a sorcerer. The town is about to snap, with tensions between the magical and non-magical communities.

And in the center of all this, is Matthew, whom Cassie finds irresistible. But can she trust him? According to Evan, no way. But then, Evan isn’t the most objective person when it comes to Cassie. Evan and Cassie have a history, as well as a secret connection, that keeps them bound in spite of themselves.

Will Cassie discover the real culprit or culprits behind the pastor’s wife’s murder, as well as the real face behind the anti-magical propaganda and demonstrations? Most importantly, will she wake up and see Matthew for who he really is…and find the courage to face Evan for what he did to her—when she finds out?

I love this series and thoroughly enjoyed this instalment! There’s something about Cassie’s voice that makes her really likable. She has a good heart and is witty, too. But best of all, she is just an ordinary girl next door trying to do her best in spite of everything that happens around her—which is usually pretty remarkable, as is often the case in paranormal stories.

Her relationship with Evan keeps evolving organically and there’s a major revelation in this book about their connection and the secret behind their rival families. Matthew is a great addition to this episode, adding tension with his charismatic personality and inciting sparks of jealousy from Evan. The conflict between the religious and the magical communities is also well done.

Mind Games kept me reading late into the night, wondering what would happen next. If you haven’t read any books in this series before, I urge you to pick up book one first, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. The books are best read in order. You won’t be disappointed.

Purchase links: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

Connect with the author on the web: 

Website / Newsletter / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Google+

My review was originally published on Blogcritics

 

 

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Soon from Twilight Times Books!

LuthiersApprentice_med

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him. And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

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About the book

There are witches in the world…some are good and some of them are downright evil. Amanda Givens is careful how she uses her powers. She doesn’t want the people of Canaan, Connecticut, to know they have a witch among them…even a good, white witch. For years, she’s lived quietly in a remote cabin in the woods with Amadeus, her feline familiar. When she’s wrongly blamed for a rash of ritualistic murders committed by a satanic cult, she knows she can’t hide any longer. She’s the one the cult’s after. More than that, she’s the only one who can stop them and prove her innocence. In doing this, she’s drawn back in time by the ghost of the malevolent witch, Rachel Coxe, who was drowned for practicing black magic in the 17th century. Now, as Amanda tries to rehabilitate Rachel’s reputation in an effort to save lives, as well as her own, she has to rely on a sister’s love and magical knowledge, and a powerful sect of witches called the Guardians, to help her get home safely.

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My thoughts…

First of all, I’d like to say that I LOVE the cover and that’s the main reason I initially decided to read the book. How can you not be persuaded by a cover like that? Also, this being the Halloween season, I thought the topic appealing. That said, I did have my reservations. I don’t like books about witchcraft if things get too grim and graphic. Fortunately, the author didn’t disappoint me in this aspect. Witches is a light horror novel with an old traditional quality to it. It’s spooky at times, and certainly suspenseful, but not scary.

Apart from this, there are many other things I liked about this novel. Let me talk first about the main character, the good witch Amanda Givens. Except for the part about being a witch and having her shape-shifting familiar Amadeus, she’s your regular, next-door widow in her mid thirties. Pretty yes, but not beautiful or in any way extraordinary. She’s quiet, with a kind heart, and lives a solitary life in the woods. She also has a mature, thoughtful voice that I enjoyed a lot. So Amanda certainly is a sympathetic character that made me care for her and her predicament.

I also enjoyed the well-plotted storyline which includes all the elements paranormal fans enjoy: magic, shape-shifting, ghosts, and even there’s a little of time-travel thrown into the mix. Add to that a dash of love and you have a very entertaining story to sit by the fire this Halloween.

The prose flows well and, as I mentioned, the style is kind of traditional, taking me back to those horror novels I used to love reading in the 80’s. Some of the descriptions are beautiful, with vivid images. In addition, the author does a good job in bringing the ‘small New England town’ to life, making her fictional world real to the reader.

In sum, this is a novel about good vs. evil with a good share of twists and turns and exciting scenes, some spooky, others sad, yet others humorous. If you’re looking for a light horror about witches to read this Halloween, pick this one up!

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Black Magic Woman
by Justin Gustainis
ISBN: 9781844165414
Solaris Books
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Paranormal Thriller

Author’s website: www.justingustainis.com

Quincey Morris isn’t your typical private investigator. For one thing, he happens to be a straight descendant of Bram Stoker’s Quincey Morris. He also specializes in supernatural cases involving vampires, werewolves, succubis, and other terrifying beings.

In this first book in the series, Quincey is called to help a family who is being tormented by, supposedly, a ghost. On closer inspection, however, it becomes evident that a simple ghost isn’t the culprit, and that darker, more sinister and eminently dangerous forces are at work: a powerful curse dating back to the time of the infamous Salem witch trials. Together with his partner Libby Chastain, who happens to be a white witch, Quincey sets out to undo the curse in order to save the tormented family. The investigation takes them to Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York as they try to discover the identity of the black witch who is the root of all the problems. At the same time, innocent children are being abducted for utterly despicable reasons. Are their killings related to the curse? Will Quincey and Libby outwit the evil witch, fight the villains who work for her, and stop the murder of innocent souls?

Black Magic Woman is one of the most enjoyable paranormal suspense novels I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing recently. Black magic, witches, and a thoroughly sympathetic supernatural detective team, together with the plot’s many exciting twists and turns, make this book a thrilling and enjoyable read. The author combines elements of traditional witchcraft with Zulu fetish witchcraft–truly creepy, truly fascinating.

The protagonist possesses just the right amount of boldness and braveness, strength and sensitivity, and has the perfect sense of justice. He’s the good guy next door–except, of course, his job is investigating paranormal events and destroying supernatural fiends. The secondary characters are very well drawn as well: the villains are evil without being stereotypical. Indeed, the characterization of some of the minor characters, and not only the witchcraft, is what makes this novel truly terrifying.

The action doesn’t let up, and the ending is satisfying and will leave readers hungry for more. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the sequel, Evil Ways. If you’re a fan of paranormal thrillers/mysteries and urban fantasies, you’ll want to add Gustainis to your list of favorite authors.

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Author Justin Gustainis is the author of an exciting new paranormal series featuring kick-ass supernatural investigator Quincey Morris. I had the pleasure of reading this book recently, so look for my review in a day or two. In a few words, you won't be able to put the book down. In this fascinating interview, the author talks about his new novel, the writing process, creating his protagonist, plus he offers us a glimpse into the mind of the supernatural thriller writer. 

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

Let me answer the second part of that first: I’m a college professor. My field is Communication Studies, and my specialty is social influence (persuasion, argumentation, etc.) I teach in a mid-size university in upstate New York.

My academic colleagues refer to teaching as my “day job.” My publisher, on the other hand, calls writing my “day job.” I hope they never meet.

My literary “career,” if it may be called that, has two stages. The first was abortive. Years and years ago, I thought I might try my hand at writing. I wrote off a few short stories, and sent them off to some magazines who published that sort of stuff. Imagine my surprise when the stories were all rejected!

I guess I lacked commitment, because I just – stopped.

Quite a few years later, I was going through a stormy period in my marriage, and I got the idea for a novel and started fooling around with it. I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, but I was using writing as a way to get away from my problems for a while. And it worked! Once I really got in to it, time would pass effortlessly. I’d look up from the computer, and two hours (or more) would have gone by.

There’s a guy named Csizszentmihalvi who, a while back, wrote a book called FLOW. The term refers to a state of utter absorption in what you’re doing. Different people achieve it different ways – sports, playing chess, building a house. For me, “flow” comes through writing. And it led to my first novel, THE HADES PROJECT.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was, indeed, an avid reader. In fact, I tell people that I’ve never had a creative writing course or taken part in any kind of workshop (although that’s about to change: I’ve been accepted for Odyssey this summer). What I know about writing comes from reading about a zillion books.

My progress, beginning at about age 7, was: comic books, nonfiction about World War II (the show “Combat” was popular at the time, and sparked my interest), followed by “books for boys,” especially the “Rick Brant Science Adventures,” then Sherlock Holmes, The Saint, then Bond, James Bond. This takes me up to about age 14, and after that I was off to the (literary) races.

Tell us a bit about your latest book.

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN is an urban fantasy about a family living under a curse that dates back to the Salem witch trials. The curse appears life-threatening, so the family seeks the help of Quincey Morris, occult investigator. Quincey is a direct descendant of the Texan by the same name who appeared in Stoker’s DRACULA, and gave his life in pursuit of the Count’s destruction.

Quincey realizes he’s in over his head and calls in Libby Chastain, a “consultant” who is a practitioner of “white” witchcraft. The two of them cross the country on the trail of the “black” witch responsible for the curse. But then she learns of their pursuit, and uses all the evil power at her command in an effort to destroy them.

At the same time, the FBI is investigating a series of child abductions and murders with strong occult overtones. The Bureau sends for an expert from South Africa, who knows more than a little about occult murder. Detective Sergeant Garth Van Dreenan is a member of the country’s Occult Crime Bureau (which really exists, BTW). Van Dreenan is partnered with African-American Special Agent Fenton, and the two of them attempt to overcome their cultural differences long enough to discover who is behind the murders, in which the children’s bodily organs are removed while they are still alive.

The two cases appear unrelated. They are not. Both eventually come together – with a vengeance, you might say.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

For the first book, THE HADES PROJECT, I started with an idea and a character, and kept writing because I wanted to see what was going to happen next. The same is true, pretty much, for BLACK MAGIC WOMAN. However, for the third book, EVIL WAYS (a sequel to BMW and the second “Quincey Morris Supernatural Adventure”) I had to compose an outline in order to secure my contract from the publisher. I’m writing the book now, and frankly, finding the outline rather confining – because this is the structure of the book that I have, more or less, committed to write, so I can’t change it drastically.

Your protagonist, Quincey Morris, is one of the most likable heroes I've encountered in a novel in a long time. How did you develop this character? Did he come naturally or did you want him to have specific qualities to suit your plot?

Quincey evolved gradually, but, looking back, I can see that he reflects qualities and attributes of three friends of mine – one of whom is a Texan, like Quincey. Or, another way to look at it is, Quincey Morris is the man I always wanted to be. Give or take the vampires.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

THE HADES PROJECT took about a year and a half to produce the first draft. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN took about a year. Keep in mind, I have a day job. Or so my fellow professors say.

Describe your working environment.

I have an office at home where I do most of my writing. It’s decorated with “occult detective” memorabilia, since that’s both what I write and what I love to read. I’ve got “Constantine” and “Hellboy” movie posters on the walls, mugs from “Twin Peaks” and “Millennium,” Mulder and Scully action figures, and a prop from “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (the original, not the more recent, pallid attempt). There’s a lot more, but you get the idea.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Not nearly as much as I wish.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

In the case of finding the publisher for BLACK MAGIC WOMAN (Solaris Books), it was a combination of persistence and dumb luck. It’s a very long story, and I’d rather skip to the second part of this question.

My advice is simple, but I mean it sincerely. Don’t quit. Don’t stop writing, don’t stop revising, and don’t stop sending your stuff out. This doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be published – but the other choice guarantees that you WON’T be published.

Somebody once said that “a published writer is an unpublished writer who didn’t give up.” I’m down with that.

What's inside the mind of the supernatural thriller writer?

I think it’s the knowledge, deep down, that the world is a dangerous place – and not all the dangers come from terrorists, diseases, and global warming.

There’s something out there, in the dark, just beyond the range of vision. It’s my job (and my pleasure) to give you a glimpse of it. Just a glimpse, mind – a full-on look would drive you mad with terror.

My credo is well expressed by the last line of the stage play DRACULA, a line spoken directly to the audience: “Just remember: there ARE such things!”

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I once read something attributed, I think, to Andre Norton. It’s about how becoming a writer is a simple, three-step process: 1) place butt in chair 2) write 3) repeat.

Works every time.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

You betcha. It’s at www.justingustainis.com. And, as long as I’m giving website URLs, here’s one for the publisher’s (Solaris Books) page dedicated to the book.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Well, I’ve already mentioned EVIL WAYS, which is due for publication in January ’09 – always assuming I get it finished on time. I’m also putting together an anthology of “occult detective” stories. Some very well-known writers have agreed to contribute: Simon R. Green, Rachel Caine, Kim Newman, Lili Saintcrow, and P.N. Elrod, to name a few.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

EVIL WAYS will be dedicated to the memory of my wife, Patricia Grogan, who died on December 22, 2007.

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