Book Review: Death Lies Between Us, by Jody A. Kessler

deathLiesBetweenUsRelease Date: March 2013
NA Paranormal

Saving the life of someone you love should not be the worst thing you have ever done, unless you are an Angel of Death. Disgruntled with his position in the afterlife and conflicted by his feelings toward his new client, Nathaniel Evans forgoes the rules and saves nineteen year old Juliana Crowson from being hopelessly stuck in Forge Creek. This alters Juliana’s destiny and she finds herself in a series of near death accidents.

In the mountains of Colorado, Nathaniel comforts Juliana as she struggles to understand her paranormal abilities while coping with her brother’s drug addiction. When an ill-tempered Native American Shaman teaches her the difference between ghosts and place memories, she decides she wants nothing to do with the supernatural world. Too bad she doesn’t know that Nathaniel is part of it. Will fate bring these two together, or has Nathaniel made the biggest mistake of his afterlife?


When Nathaniel Evans first sees Juliana Crowson, she’s writing in a notebook while a boy that resembles her plays a guitar. Her face is hidden from Nathaniel by her long black hair and eyelashes. The poetry she’s writing in her book give him an ominous feeling, like she may have a death wish. It wouldn’t surprise him. He’s an Angel of Death and he’s there to help her make the transition into the hereafter.

Her time has not come yet, and because he has to be there when it does, he has the only excuse he needs to follow her. It’s in his job description, but he quickly realizes it might be bad for his soul. He was wrong about her death wish. On the contrary, she’s full of life. Within an hour of walking into her life, Nathaniel finds her in three potentially life threatening situations, and with each one, he feels the moment he’s waiting for draw nearer and dreads it. But when people who know Juliana leave her with her foot caught between a log and a rock in an ice-cold creek, Nathaniel can no longer watch. He makes himself visible and flesh enough to free her from her predicament, but fears that his interference may set her up for a death worse that the hypothermia he’s helped her avoid.

Death Lies Between us is a New Adult novel centered on a theme of unintended consequences. Every character in this story does something that impacts other characters, sometimes in undesirable ways, even across time and dimensions. There are moments of innocence, selfishness, cruelty, fear, greed, love, pity, and forgiveness, all of which come from characters one might least expect. This gives the entire cast a very human quality.

Nathaniel is a desirable hero with a tragic past that allows the reader to pity his mortal life and sympathize with his present situation. With two dangerous incidents averted, superstitious Juliana is on her guard and waiting for the third to come and claim her. Once introduced, they are subject to quick, mutual infatuation. The reader can only hope that she avoids the fate that Nathaniel’s presence promises.

Yet, it’s in the love story arc of the story where a latent flaw inherent to any romance with a ghost lies. The only “happily ever after” requires the death of the living partner, and the thought of Juliana’s death was Nathaniel’s conflict. How could he do his job when his instinct was to protect her? Appearing to her is not a huge deal, because the girl has supernatural talents that she is struggling to come to terms with, but manifesting as a touchable person takes a lot of effort for him. Basically, I didn’t feel that Juliana was at risk of dying, but neither did I feel there was hope for a future with Nathaniel. A happily-for-now was possible if she survived the novel, but I found myself hoping for the development of a third scenario that involved Chris, a cranky, 25-going on-70-year-old Native American shaman.

Without giving anything away, I will say I was satisfied.

In her debut novel, Jody Kessler has written a solid paranormal novel that bring together Native American folklore, restless spirits, supernatural gifts, and angels on missions. It is the first of a planned series, and there are a number of loose ends left to be tied. The haunting of Castle Hill, (one of the primary settings of the book), Juliana’s brother’s drug addiction are both realistically still in play, as is an apparent fall from grace for Nathaniel, who seems unable to follow rules where Juliana is concerned.

I would recommend Death Lies Between Us to fans of NA Paranormal Romance, particularly readers who enjoyed Avery Olive’s “A Stiff Kiss” or Toni de Palma’s “The Devil’s Triangle.”

I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

★★★★

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Book Review: Silencing Breath (Stealing Breath #2), by Joanne Brothwell

silencing breathSilencing Breath (Stealing Breath #2), by Joanne Brothwell

Just as Sarah Ross is learning everything she can about her new abilities as an Indigo Child and settling into a normal life with her beloved Evan, her entire world shatters when Evan disappears without a trace.

Desperate to find him, Sarah’s search leads her to a sadistic serial killer who confirms her worst fears are true; Evan has been kidnapped, and he is once again in the clutches of his abusive family of necromancers.

Sarah uncovers not only Evan’s dark past he tried so desperately to protect her from, but also The Key of Solomon, an ancient text for summoning the dead.
Knowing her abilities are limited in the face of this ancient power, Sarah is forced to face the Malandanti in order to save him. However, one question remains: once he is found, will Evan be the same man she fell in love with?

It’s been four years since Sarah Ross became entangled in Evan Valenti’s strange world of sorcery and skinwalking. They have settled into life in Seattle, complete with a cute house, coffee rituals, and morning sex when they can swing it. This particular moment, they don’t quite have time for the latter. Evan, a successful contractor, is due at a meeting with co-owners in 10 minutes, so they reluctantly settle for a steamy kiss, and then he’s gone. It’s just as well. Sarah, a senior at the University of Washington, has a meeting with a potential advisor. There she learns that not only will she be accepted to graduate school, but also she’ll be working with Dr. “Jerry” Goderich on research regarding psychopaths, starting immediately. There’s a man fresh off a kill sitting on ice at the prison and Jerry’s antsy to get into his head. That’s when Sarah’s beloved normal life comes to a screeching halt. She recognizes the prisoner on sight. She killed him four years ago.

Ms. Brothwell crafts a strong female lead in Sarah Ross. When we met Sarah in Stealing Breath, she was a girl struggling with teenage insecurities on top of her ability to feel the emotions of those around her. Four year later, all of them with Evan at her side, she is a confident woman with control of the power that could have easily destroyed her. Now, Evan has been taken away from her, and she will fight to get him back with little more than love and raw determination, even if it means confronting the devil himself. And when the Valenti family is involved, that’s not just a figure of speech.

The author doesn’t pull any punches with Evan’s situation. Sarah may not know exactly what Stefano, the older Valenti brother, is putting him through, but the reader gets to see all of it. Beautiful Evan is rendered vulnerable, made to bleed, and broken over the course of days with even his ability to plea for mercy silenced by dark magic. As a reader, I held on through every page that Evan could hold onto Sarah, and himself, long enough to be rescued, even as I wondered if anyone could.

This book was somewhat of a surprise for me, as I had some issues with Stealing Breath. However, those awkward bits were left behind in North Dakota along with Sarah Ross’ former life. Silencing Breath is a huge step forward for Joanne Brothwell. The writing is clean, the prose tight, and the stakes dire. There’s cause for  concern on nearly every page that Sarah and her allies won’t get out of this book alive.

I was given an advance copy in return for my honest opinion.

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Book Review: Stealing Breath, by Joanne Brothwell

Stealing Breath, by Joanne Brothwell
Crescent Moon Press, March 2012

Deep in the backwoods of North Dakota, twenty–one year old Sarah Ross is searching for a missing child when she is attacked by a glowing–eyed, transparent… creature. Sarah survives, destroying the monster by using mysterious abilities she didn’t even know she had.

Bloody and bruised, Sarah flees the scene and runs directly into Evan Valente, a handsome, charismatic stranger who helps her back to safety. But what is Evan doing out in the forest at five in the morning?

Turning to a healer, Sarah is shocked to learn her eyes bear the mark of the Indigo Child—an evolved human with the ability to feel the emotions of others. But her indigo aura also makes her an easy target for those who wish to consume her powerful essence.

Soon, Sarah is falling deeply in love with Evan and wants nothing more than to follow her heart and trust that he is the man he says he is. But she can’t ignore the lingering feeling that Evan is hiding a terrible secret. The deeper she digs, the more danger she faces, leading her on a course that will force her to face the darkest, innermost parts of her soul.


Sarah Ross is an empath. She can feel the emotions of other people near her as if they are her own. In fear of being misunderstood, she doesn’t talk about it ever. On one summer day, while partying camping with friends, she wakes to a child’s cry for help. The news has been reporting for days that a ten-year-old girl is missing from the Native American reservation, so Sarah ventures into the woods calling out Jessica’s name. But as she gets further into the woods, the tone of the voice changes from fearful to taunting. She walks into a clearing to find an abandoned house, ravaged by elements and drunk teenagers. She follows the voice inside, up the stairs, and falls through weak wood. It’s while injured that she is confronted by something she can’t explain. It’s human-ish, transparent and shimmery, like a mirage, with eyes like yellow bile. And when it touches her, she feels yucky and suffocated. Reacting on instinct, she pushes the foreign feelings out, and the creature retreats.

She stumbles out of the house and runs into the owner of the property, a gorgeous specimen of male with dark hair and blue eyes, named Evan Valente. He helps her back to his SUV, patches her up and returns her to her friends. Sarah cannot read him the way she does most other people, but she feels a connection with him the moment they touch.

Sarah learns through her native friend’s mother, and the woman’s contacts on the reservation, that the thing that attacked her was actually a person. The Navajo, they say, have people called Skinwalkers who practice dark magic and who use it for astral projection. In their disembodied state, they seek out souls to consume, which increases their power. The natives have known that Skinwalkers are in their town for a while. They are certain that the intruders are responsible for the disappearances of the missing girl and her mother. They believe that Sarah, who they call “The Indigo Child” for the violet glow of her spirit, is their next target.

While Sarah finds the information hard to believe, Evan is incredibly receptive, which gives her the confidence to tell him things she normally wouldn’t tell anyone. But he’s more than he seems to be…which could be taken for granted given he’s tall, dark, handsome, and the object of affection in a paranormal novel. He’s not in Slave Lake to develop land, as he claims. Nor was his presence at his woodland property during Sarah’s attack a coincidence. However, Sarah’s challenge with Evan isn’t coming to terms with these deceptions. Her wealthy Italian hottie from Navajo country has dangerous secrets lurking in deep, dark places. Despite them all, she’ll have to trust him if she plans to go on breathing.

I found the concept behind Stealing Breath very intriguing. The extraordinary power in this story, while having a magical component, is untapped human potential. Some characters are taught magic to wield power, but others are drawing upon energies naturally, instinctively, and even obliviously. The connection between Sarah and Evan is palpable, particularly in my favorite scene of the book, where he dives off a bridge, catches her and rolls into the water below. At a time when she thought she couldn’t trust him, the moment she feels his arms around her, she knows without thinking that she was safe. And if you read books for sex and fights, the author has included several scenes that bring down the house. I actually mean that literally.

This book has much going for it, but there were a few things that I found distracting from the story. For one, the author uses conversation in many places where it gets underfoot. Another, the pacing of the revelations is rather quick. I’m a fan of slow reveals, so I preferred to be strung along a bit. These are both personal preference; other readers may not share it.

Otherwise, Joanne Brothwell has woven an intriguing story using Native American and Italian folk tales, and set her characters up nicely for a sequel.

Rating: ★★★★

A Busy Week at Crescent Moon Press

Crescent Moon Press released three new books this week, as well as a print version of one released last month. The covers and blurbs are below!

The Summerland, by Elizabeth Cheryl

When Abigail Parker moves to Salem, Massachusetts, with her Aunt Bridgette, nothing makes sense from the moment she arrives. A familiar but unknown voice whispers words of reassurance. Her aunt’s behavior is confusing at best.

When Bridgette’s gravely injured, Abigail desperately seeks help from a spell book she found in her closet. But something goes terribly wrong. Abbey is hurtled three centuries backward in time.landing in a vastly different Salem.

It’s summertime 1692 – the infamous witch trials are in full swing and Abigail’s sporting pink nail polish and a tattoo. Abigail finds William, the source of the familiar voice and something much more. However, she must return to modern Salem to retrieve the spell book.

Can she do so in time to save her family and without exposing herself to accusations of witchcraft? Most importantly, how does she leave when she’s just finding love?


Stealing Breath, by Joanne Brothwell

Deep in the backwoods of North Dakota, twenty–one year old Sarah Ross is searching for a missing child when she is attacked by a glowing–eyed, transparent… creature. Sarah survives, destroying the monster by using mysterious abilities she didn’t even know she had.

Bloody and bruised, Sarah flees the scene and runs directly into Evan Valente, a handsome, charismatic stranger who helps her back to safety. But what is Evan doing out in the forest at five in the morning?

Turning to a healer, Sarah is shocked to learn her eyes bear the mark of the Indigo Child—an evolved human with the ability to feel the emotions of others. But her indigo aura also makes her an easy target for those who wish to consume her powerful essence.

Soon, Sarah is falling deeply in love with Evan and wants nothing more than to follow her heart and trust that he is the man he says he is. But she can’t ignore the lingering feeling that Evan is hiding a terrible secret. The deeper she digs, the more danger she faces, leading her on a course that will force her to face the darkest, innermost parts of her soul.


Static Shock, by Eilis Flynn

Can you live without your computer? Can you wear a watch? Do you know anyone who can’t?

In a time not long from now, there are people whose life paths are determined by such simple details. Legally recognized as electromagnetics, or “Readers”, they are a twist in evolution, an anomaly in a society that has become technologically dependent. Considered second-class citizens because of their heightened electromagnetic fields, Readers can’t wear watches, get too close to a TV, or even drive for fear they will shut down the car’s electrical system. Computers become worthless doorstops quickly around Readers. Career prospects are limited.

Reader Jeanne Muir decides to expand her horizons when she’s unexpectedly offered a new job opportunity. But she hasn’t been told that her job description includes being framed for a crime she didn’t commit. Because Readers are not held in high esteem, Jeanne’s an easy scapegoat, and law enforcement definitely is not on her side. Knowing she was set up and the odds are against her, Jeanne can’t let herself be taken in-and risks asking mysterious, sexy Ran Owata, a fellow Reader who is no longer accepted among their kind, for help. The problem is: Can she trust him? Does she have a choice?


Perpetual Light, by Jordan K. Rose

Fate is cruel. Especially when the one you’ve sworn to love for all eternity, the very soul who changed your destiny, is the last person you should trust.

After more than three hundred years of running, Lucia Dicomano must make a choice.

Forced to take her place as a Pharo of Redemption, the divine slayer needs to master her forgotten powers. Lucia turns to Vittorio, the one vampire she’s failed to deliver from eternal damnation. But overcoming smoldering remnants of love, lust and anger aren’t their only obstacles.

Samuel, who may know Lucia better than she knows herself, hunts her with a fervor stoked by a thousand years of vengeful hatred. His plan-capture and enslave the weakened Pharo then take control of her elusive power.

Can Lucia trust Vittorio long enough to reclaim her powers? Or will she have no choice but to kill him and battle Samuel alone?

Perpetual Light, by Jordan K. Rose, was released on February 26th, but the print edition went live today on Amazon.


And finally, a new cover reveal!

Fae Dragon Chronicles: Book One, Love Chosen, by Marne Ann Kirk

For millennia, dragon and fae have peacefully co-existed, but the fae themselves have lived segregated and very different lives.

Now a malevolence threatens to separate them all permanently. Can a Queen’s guard and a rebellious outlaw join forces to defeat this common enemy?

Tyler’s touch sparks fierce desire, drawing Issie to him, but she despises his way of life and all that palace society represents. If he learns she wields majic to help the less fortunate escape the kingdom, he’ll charge her with treason. Her punishment – death.

Issie, is a sassy rebel who is constantly looking for ways to circumvent the conventions of their society. Tyler’s head warns that she’s a non-majical lower, beneath him. His heart sees by her inner strength and outer beauty. Only a binding love will lend them strength to save her life – their world.

Can either of them bend enough to trust that love?

Have I mentioned recently that I love my publisher already? No…well, I do.