PUBLISHED BY: Independently published by Amazon, February 7, 2021
ISBN: 9798705975495
Review copy provided by author
Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This is no ordinary romance. It’s set in the present, without the Corona or Covid 19 virus, or whatever the hell they’re calling it now, to spoil the fun. A nice widowed lady named Cassandra Cortez DeMaio, Cassie to her friends, runs into an old high school friend at her uncle’s funeral. Doctor Kevin Berrigan, dentist, with a practice in Long Island, has been divorced long enough to be comfortable with the way his life is now. But meeting Cassie again after all these years makes the strings of his heart go zing!

Cassie, whose late husband left her with enough good memories to make her less than eager to replace him, suddenly sees her old friend in a new light, especially after Claire, one of her female friends, makes a snippy remark about his divorce; obviously she’s on the ex-wife’s side. Cassie, whose own memories of the ex-wife are less than fond, decides Kevin deserves a second chance. So she gives him her email and they end up video chatting each other almost every night. She always begins her emails with “Sweet greetings from Carthage!” (the village in Jefferson County, upstate New York, where she lives) and their long distance romance eventually turns into the real thing, with romantic dates and overnight sleepovers.

Next thing you know, Kevin pops the question in a romantic Italian restaurant, presenting her with a nice diamond ring before the entrée. Cassie accepts happily and agrees to move to Long Island, selling her share of the hobby shop she owns, along with her house, so they can be together. But just when the future is looking so bright, it begins to darken. Shortly after moving into Kevin’s house, Cassie starts getting headaches and forgetting things, like her own brother’s name when it appears on her phone’s screen. Unable to decide whether this is the natural result of aging (both lovers are 50+) or symptoms of a more serious problem, she agrees to see a neurosurgeon. The diagnosis: Cassie is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Panic ensues as Cassie imagines herself deteriorating into a senile old woman, rejected by Kevin, an object of pity to her family and friends. After calling her mother with the news, she collapses into a tearful heap in a closet at Kevin’s house, leaving her mother to call Kevin with the news. Kevin, understandably upset at not getting the news from Cassie first, leaves work early and comes home to find her hiding in the closet, still weeping. After coaxing her out, he tries to comfort her but it turns into an argument over whether they should still get married. He’s still willing, but she’s afraid of becoming a burden on him. It ends with him storming out of the house and driving to a friend’s house in the rain, while she calls her friend Claire, who quickly arrives to comfort her while saying “I told you so” between supportive sentences, believing Kevin to be abandoning her friend the same way he did his ex-wife (who, by the way, has already remarried and had children, so he didn’t exactly ruin her life).

Kevin arrives at his friend Peter’s house, the same guy he invited to be his best man. But instead of being sympathetic to Cassie’s plight, Peter urges him to dump her because she’s damaged goods. He’s only thinking of how Cassie’s Alzheimer’s will affect Kevin, but this insensitive advice almost gets him a knuckle sandwich. Fortunately, Peter’s wife Kate intervenes and manages to calm things down, informing them that a great many medical advances have been made in the last few years so that Alzheimer’s is no longer the slow death sentence it used to be. Peter realizes how insensitive he’s been and apologizes to Kevin, who decides to stick by Cassie no matter what. He returns home to find Cassie being comforted by Claire, who glares at him, expecting him to reject her friend. But he embraces her instead, reassuring both Cassie and Claire that he does love her enough to go through with the wedding.

And so, with a great deal of support from friends and family, as well as prescriptions and dietary suggestions from Cassie’s doctor, the wedding is still on. As the lovers join hands at St. Rose of Lima Church during the Memorial Day weekend, Cassie is relieved and comforted to know that Kevin will always stand by her in the days to come, no matter how dark they get. Isn’t that what every woman hopes for from the man she loves? Even if she doesn’t have a potentially fatal disease. Like I said at the beginning of this review, this is no ordinary romance. Despite the happy ending being shadowed by the prospect of a long, downhill slide into forgetfulness, Cassie can be sure that Kevin will never forget her or cease to love and care for her.

THE SANTA HEIST and other Christmas stories

TITLE: THE SANTA HEIST and other Christmas stories
ISBN: 9781689023665

Christmas came early this year for me and other fans of urban fantasy, especially those who like John L. French and Patrick Thomas. “The Santa Heist and other Christmas stories” is a collection of stories about Christmas, written in the irreverent, smart-alecky style of our boy Patrick, and his colleague John L. French, whose stories have a more serious tone and are much darker. His past as a crime scene supervisor shows in the way he depicts the dark side of humanity without flinching. Both of them collaborated on the cover story, “The Santa Heist”, about a gang of henchmen who decide to sleigh-jack Santa so the poor kids in Harbor City can have a happy Christmas for once, without having to settle for the cheap, knockoff toys. The rest of the stories run the gamut from sad to glad.

In French’s “All I Want for Christmas”, an abusive husband and father gets his just deserts after his young son’s letter to Santa is delivered to Satan by mistake, because of an innocent spelling error by the child. Bianca Jones, French’s badass detective who took on the Devil and won, meets him once again as a confidential informant in “A Gift Freely Given”, as he lets her know about a plot to steal certain religious relics from the local museum, particularly one that may have been in the stable the night Jesus was born. Speaking of that night, a French story that moved me to tears, “The Inner Light”, is about the angel who guarded Mary through her pregnancy and single-backhandedly defeated the five demons sent to destroy the Christ child on that blessed night. You wouldn’t think a sweet, black angel with ash gray wings was a match for five powerful demons, but the inner light of her faith was enough to help her route them all, though it left her badly wounded.

Thomas’s stories provide a more light-hearted contrast, with the exception of one that sent shivers down my spine at the conclusion; “Out of Bethlehem”, which tells us what happened to the babies left in Bethlehem after the Holy Family escaped to Egypt. Every Christian knows about the slaughter of the innocents, when King Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every baby boy under the age of two, to rid himself of the newborn King of the Jews. One baby boy escapes the slaughter thanks to an angel of the Lord who rescues the mother from the Roman soldiers pursuing her. He tells the mother that her son has “a great destiny to complete”, but when I found out who her son was, I wondered whether this was the Angel of Death. Two of Patrick’s Christmas stories from his Murphy’s Lore series are reprinted here, “Pining Away” starring Agent Karver and his partner Mandy Cobb from the Department of Mystic Affairs, where they take on a dryad who murdered a suburban family after they unknowingly chopped down her tree to decorate it for Christmas, and “Hell’s Covenant”, with the gang from Bulfinche’s Pub fighting to protect Toni, their waitress, from the demon she unknowingly made a bargain with for shelter, in exchange for her unborn baby.

These two gentlemen alternate between serious and humorous stories, even the serious ones frequently containing a note of humor, like Patrick’s puns and French’s reference to Rocky and Bullwinkle in “Joy to the World”, where the angel who saved Baby Jesus makes an encore appearance. I enjoyed every story, even the ones that made me sad, because Christmas is about joy and sorrow and life and death, something people frequently forget in their greed for gifts and their desire to one-up everyone else in the giving and receiving of gifts. So if you’re looking for a good read for Christmas, get a copy of “The Santa Heist” for yourself or for someone you love who loves Christmas. It’s dedicated to “all those who honor Christmas in their hearts and who try to keep it all the year”, a quote from Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, which is represented here by “Saving Marley”, a story by John French. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good read!

Book Review: The Mug Life

ISBN: 978-1-890096-84-7

It’s been a while since I wrote a review of any of Patrick Thomas’ works. The closest I came was my review for “Release The Virgins” on June 10th, an anthology by Michael Ventrella to which Patrick contributed a short story, “The Running of The Drones”. That was done with his usual flair. Now here comes another volume in the Murphy’s Lore After Hours series, in which we learn of the misadventures of Murphy’s motley crew of gods and monsters, along with pixies, demons, immortals and just plain folks along for the ride.

Our man John Murphy tells us two tales in this assortment of stories about the mug life (whether he’s referring to the mugs he fills at Bulfinche’s Pub or the mugs who work and drink there is anyone’s guess). The first one is about an angry man who shows up at Bulfinche’s with his two kids and a gun, determined to repay his ex-wife for taking his kids, the house and half his pension. Murphy manages to defuse the situation with the help of his co-workers and the Mayan death goddess Ixtab, who specializes in suicide, and was there to counsel another customer suffering from terminal cancer. The second story takes place on one of Murphy’s rare days off, when he goes to a mall and runs into Jason Cervantes the cross-dressing cop and Bubba Sue the gremlin, who are now dating. The three of them end up at a lingerie shop, where they have to defuse another bad situation between an angry young woman with a bomb strapped to her chest and one on her ex-boyfriend’s. Don’t waste your time feeling sorry for the guy; he screwed her over badly and even got her deported to Mexico to end their relationship, and she doesn’t even speak Spanish. Two prime examples of love’s labors lost.
Continue reading “Book Review: The Mug Life”

Release The Virgins

Title: Release The Virgins
By: Michael A. Ventrella, editor
Published by: Fantastic Books
Isbn: 1-5151-2384-0/978-1-5154-2384-3
Review copy sent by Publisher
Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This is the second best book I’ve ever read that was written on a dare. The first was “Frankenstein” by 18-year-old Mary Shelley, after she and her future husband, the poet Percy Shelley, spent a wet summer at the Villa Diodati in Switzerland with their friend Lord Byron, where it wouldn’t stop raining. They spent most of their time reading ghost stories in front of the fireplace during all those dark and stormy nights, which inspired Byron to suggest that they all write a ghost story of their own. Poor Mary spent many sleepless nights wracking her brain to come up with a scary story, until she had a nightmare about “a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the novel’s story.”[Wikipedia, “Frankenstein”]. I think we all agree that Mary Shelley won that competition.
Continue reading “Release The Virgins”

Book Review: Peggy Pinch – Policeman’s Wife

Peggy Pinch Policeman’s Wife
Written by Malcolm Noble
Published by Matador
ISBN: 978-1848767-867
Review copy purchased by reviewer

Review by Jane Seaton

We all love an idyllic 1920’s English village, lightly peppered with a few tasteful murders, all of which are solved in calm and timely fashion by an elderly spinster, or titled gentleman.

So get real. In 1926, an English village too far from the nearest main road to merit a reliable bus service is already nervously aware that the threatened General Strike will bring real hunger. The policeman’s wife senses that the local Police Inspector is going to take out his frustration over this crime on her husband. That’ll mean humiliation, unemployment and loss of their police house home.

As the gentry talk up the possibility of full scale, communist-led revolution, the feudal certainties of village life are degenerating into a kaleidoscope of scandal. Peggy Pinch can’t even bring herself to say ‘arse’ but that doesn’t protect her from the village scolds. The only thing she can do now is solve the mystery, by Thursday.

Book review: Mystic Investigators: Bullets & Brimstone

Mystic Investigators: Bullets & Brimstone
By Patrick Thomas & John L. French
Published by Dark Quest Books
ISBN: 978-0-9826197-3-5
Review copy purchased by reviewer

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

Fresh from my review of Stefan Kanfer’s bio of Humphrey Bogart, here’s my review of another Bogie fan created by New York homeboy Patrick Thomas. Those of you familiar with the world of Murphy’s Lore will welcome the return of Negral, the forgotten fire god of Sumeria who became the Devil’s Detective to avoid fading away. Fresh from his triumph in Patrick’s previous publication, “Lore and Dysorder”, which this book keeps referring to (or was it this book that preceded “Lore and Dysorder”? Let’s do the Time Warp again!), Negral joins forces with a mortal cop, a police detective named Bianca Jones, to track down one of the Devil’s lost souls. That’s someone who signed a contract with the Devil and tries to get out of it.
Continue reading “Book review: Mystic Investigators: Bullets & Brimstone”

Book review: Lore and Dysorder: The Hell’s Detective Mysteries

Lore and Dysorder: The Hell’s Detective Mysteries
By Patrick Thomas
Padwolf Publishing 2011
Book purchased by Reviewer

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

Sure, and if it isn’t another fine book by that fine Irish laddie, Patrick Thomas! This one is about another of the regulars at Bullfinch’s Bar, a forgotten Sumerian fire god who goes by the name Negral. He’s the chief of Hell’s secret police, 666th Precinct, who channels Humphrey Bogart. I kid you not; Negral is such a big Bogie fan that he manifests himself as a tall, dark man in a suit wearing a trench coat and a fedora. He talks tough like Bogie too, and doesn’t bother to tell his suspects their Miranda Rights. That’s because most of them are the damned souls who inhabit Hell, or the demons who own them. Satan thinks so highly of him that he gave him the right to investigate and interrogate any resident of Hell, answering only to His Satanic Majesty.
Continue reading “Book review: Lore and Dysorder: The Hell’s Detective Mysteries”

Book review: Night of the Living Trekkies

Night of the Living Trekkies
By Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall
Published by Quirk Books
ISBN: 1594744637
Review copy provided by Quirk Books

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

Horror and sci-fi have been combined in an unholy and hilarious alliance by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall, both admitted “lifelong science fiction geeks and proud of it”. Inspired by George Romero and Gene Roddenberry, these fanboys have created the ultimate no-win scenario, one that makes the Kobayashi Maru look like deciding between Coke and Pepsi.
Continue reading “Book review: Night of the Living Trekkies”

Book review: Boleyn: Tudor Vampire

Boleyn: Tudor Vampire
by Cinsearae S.
Published 2010
ISBN: 1451559496
Review copy provided by the author

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This book has everything for the reader who loves horror, romance and historic fiction. It’s about Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, for whom he created a whole new church just so he could divorce his faithful first wife, Katherine of Aragon, to marry her. The author supposes that when Henry got tired of Anne and had her convicted on a slew of made-up charges, among them witchcraft, she was not beheaded like a noblewoman, but hanged like a commoner. Or, as the blurb on the back cover of this fascinating book states, “The slightest tweak in history makes all the difference in the outcome…”
Continue reading “Book review: Boleyn: Tudor Vampire”

Book Review: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
By Jane Austin and Ben H. Winters
Published by Quirk Books, Philadelphia, PA 2009
Distributed in North America by Chronicle Books
ISBN: 9781594744426
Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow,

Once again we are entertained, or afflicted, by a smartass who has decided to “improve” Jane Austin by adding an element of horror to one of her classic romance novels. As if “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith wasn’t bad enough (and by that I mean good enough to be skewered on “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, if it were still on the air, and if anybody brave enough to film PP&Z could be found), we now have “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”, in which the course of true love not only seldom runs smooth, but frequently has blood-stained water. You see, in this alternate version of Miss Austin’s novel, dear old England has been afflicted by “The Alteration; which had turned the creatures of the ocean against the people of the earth; which made even the tiniest darting minnow and the gentlest dolphin into aggressive, blood-thirsty predators, hardened and hateful towards our bipedal race”.
Continue reading “Book Review: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”