Book Review – Cursed be the Wicked by J.R. Richardson

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Cooper Shaw lives his life under a pen name and enjoys the anonymity it provides during his journeys across the globe as a seasoned writer for a travel magazine. When his job lands him in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts to cover the famous Festival of the Dead, he soon realizes that he can’t stay invisible forever as he faces ghosts from a past he’s been trying to forget ever since he left.

The city holds nothing but bad memories for Coop until he meets a quirky young woman with an old soul and curious insights by the name of Finnley Pierce. While she acts as his tour guide through a town he thought he knew, Finn helps him unearth the truth of his childhood and might even begin to open up his heart.

By unraveling the mystery of his father’s murder, Coop may finally accept who he is, where he came from, and perhaps even realize what he wants for his future.

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When I was a child I loved reading stories about journeys. In Lord of the Rings I was Frodo’s constant companion, and I clung onto Lucy Penvensie’s coat tails when she made her epic journey through Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Luckily for me, some things never change, and when I picked up Cursed be the Wicked by J. R. Richardson, I was delighted that it took me on such an enjoyable and exciting ride.

Ostensibly a paranormal romance, Cursed is the story of Cooper Shaw, a travel writer who floats from assignment to assignment. He seems to live an easy, yet solitary life, but all isn’t as it seems. In the first part of the story we learn that Coop escaped from his childhood home in Salem, Massachusetts under a dark cloud of suspicion. Let down by both his parents, he walked away and never looked back, severing any ties he might have had. When circumstances compel him to return to Salem, his plan is to stay for as short a time as possible, finishing up his article and cleaning up a personal issue at the same time.

But then he meets Finn. A quirky receptionist in the B&B he is staying in, she soon turns out to be more than she appears, and before he knows it, Coop has a companion to help him through his painful days in his childhood town. What follows is a journey into his past, where he has to reconcile his memories with the truth he’s now being told.

To classify this book as a simple love story would be doing it a disservice. In fact, it’s a tale of personal growth, of confronting demons, both perceived and real. It is a story of redemption and love. The characters are so beautifully drawn that by the end of the book I not only felt like I knew them, but wanted to stay with them, even as the story drew to an end. In addition to this, the story line was well plotted and gripping enough to keep me reading on my sofa on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, I finished the book in less than a day.

Cursed be the Wicked deserves five beautifully written, well-plotted stars.

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Book Review – Beatless by Amber L. Johnson

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Mallory Durham has been left behind and it is making her feel less like an adult and more like an afterthought. Divorce, sickness, educational aspirations being shattered, and her Aunt Sam moving into her home, have made Mal’s life nearly unrecognizable to her.

When Tucker Scott re-enters her life along with his band, will they offer what she needs to once again find her voice and self confidence or will it strip her of it even more?

Told through the dual voices of Mallory as she navigates her new world, and Aunt Sam’s letters to her niece, Beatless tells the story of two women at very different points in their life, fighting the same battles; proving that no matter what age a person is, there are always lessons to be learned.

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There are some writers who are so talented that their stories are effortless to read. Amber L. Johnson is one of those authors. As a writer myself, I know that effortless takes a lot of work, no matter how much of a non-sequitur that might seem. Her words flow gently but they pack a punch, hitting you right in the gut when you expect it least. That’s one of the many things I truly enjoyed about Beatless. It’s a story that is narrated so well that I was almost lulled into a false sense of security, yet before I knew it, I was reading with tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart. And I LOVE that.

First things first – a little about the characters. It’s narrated in first person, past tense, by the heroine, Mal. Left behind at community college while all her friends head away, she’s lost at first, trying to keep her head up when circumstances want to pull her under. Her father has left the family, and her mum is working away and leaves Mal behind in the care of her Aunt Sam. For the first few chapters you feel Mal’s bewilderment as she tries to carve herself out a life from the little that remains. It resonates so well, because I think we can all remember being a teenager, wondering where we fit, whether we’re the only ones feeling that way. Amber captures that mood so vividly it made me have all the feelings!

Under the encouragement of her aunt, Mal gets a job and meets a boy. And what a boy! Tucker is the perfect hero; devoted to his disabled sister, and trying to become the man he wants to be. Like Mal, he dreams of getting away, but he also knows that his family keeps him where he his; he shares the care of his sister with his father, and they both need him.

As Mal and Tucker become friends, confidantes and finally lovers, their story is so poignant it’s almost like you’re spying on something so intimate and raw. Right at the moment when everything feels like it’s finally coming together, something happens that brings their world tumbling around their feet. Oh my, does it hurt.

The story itself is perfect. It’s an emotional journey for Mal, Tucker and Sam, without the plot feeling forced. There are times when they make the wrong choices, treat people the wrong way, but that only serves to make it more real and truthful. Though I can’t give away the ending, it was juicy enough to make my eyes water, and sweet enough to melt my heart.

I’ve no hesitation in labelling this a five star read. So go buy, read, devour and enjoy. Amber has a full schedule of releases ahead and I’m looking forward to every single one of them!

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About the Author

Amber is a full time mom, full time wife, is employed full time, and writes when she can. She believes in Happily Ever Afters that occur every day – despite the obstacles that real life serves up on a regular basis. Or perhaps they’re sweeter
simply because of them. She always has 2 rubber bands on her wrist, a song in her head, and too much creamer in her coffee cup that reads ‘Cocoa’ – because she’s a rebel. If she’s not at her desk, with her boys, or behind the computer, she’s supporting live music with her arms raised above her head and eyes closed, waiting for the drop.  

Connect with Amber

Twitter: @WhereIsJakeRyan
Facebook author page: Amber L. Johnson Author

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