Toxic Train by Jennifer Oberth

Toxic Train

Toxic Train

by Jennifer Oberth

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Short Story

Four Stars

Ella Westin is a young newlywed on a train ride with her new husband, Joe, meeting new people and trying to enjoy what should be a peaceful journey. However, with her typical luck, Ella must solve a murder that occurs right before her eyes. Poison hides somewhere on the train, waiting to eliminate anyone who uncovers too much of the murderer’s plot. Can Ella protect her hapless husband, Joe? Can she fool her fellow passengers long enough to prevent another murder and stop the culprit?

Jennifer has created an exciting mystery with an interesting surprise. Ella’s unique personality and approach to life in a time where women held second-class status gives the tale a modern feel.

I haven’t read any other books in this series, but I could still enjoy the story and understand the characters and plot without that background. Hints appeared to previous adventures, which interested me but didn’t detract from the story at hand.

I was surprised and disappointed to find almost no character or scene description in Toxic Train. Too much description is a problem I see most often, but I do need enough to know roughly what characters look like, how old they are, and how to distinguish one from the other. Jennifer’s characters managed well with scant description, which is an accomplishment, but the missing scenery gave a hasty and dry feeling to a tale that could have had so much more richness to it. Without any description, the story lost its historical feel and blended into any other time period. A large part of my enjoyment in reading historical fiction is the transport to another time and the things I learn from it.

I’m not one to try to guess “whodunit” before the story ends, but I’m also not one to ignore the possibility. I didn’t guess ahead of time, and I enjoyed the surprise and the ensuing adventure that the killer’s identity prompted. Toxic Train is a fun and entertaining read with some good challenges to convention to make the reader think, fun setting, and interesting mystery.

I approve this title for Awesome Indies.

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

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Pre-review: Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat



by Liza Perrat

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Five stars


Generations after the life of Victoire from Spirit of Lost Angels, her ancestor, Celeste Roussel, lives her life in the town of Lucie Sur Vionne. Celeste, inheritor of the bone angel necklace, now endures the Nazi occupation of France in World War II. Life, once rich and bountiful, has become tenuous and difficult. Any wrong move can mean trouble or death for the occupied French, especially Celeste’s brother and the other Lucie Sur Vionne boys who have joined the resistance, and her sister, a nun who hides Germans in the convent. Celeste longs to join too, but finds herself torn between her duty to her country and a blossoming love for a forlorn and seemingly misplaced German soldier named Martin. Can Celeste avoid the traps and perils that loom around every corner to resist the “Boche”? Will her heart lead her to betray her family and friends, and will any of them live to be betrayed anyway? Will she leave behind her oppressive and unloving mother or will she discover why Maman’s heart was so closed to her?

Like Spirit of Lost Angels, Liza has written another historical fiction gem in Wolfsangel. She brings the era to life with the struggles of her characters in a dynamic and beautiful depiction. Biography can not explore the variety of scene and struggle like Liza’s tales, and I love to hear so much about the time period all in one contrasting, unified whole. I find it hard to reconcile that her characters are not real people and that Liza did not experience what they experienced.

The relationships of Wolfsangel fascinated me and moved me. No simple romance for Liza’s characters! I love her bravery and head-on exploration of taboo romance and complicated, close relationships clouded by hardship.

Excitement and tension fill the pages. No restful peace awaits Celeste as danger after danger threaten her and those she cares about. I felt the anguish and stress of never knowing who would be caught, hurt, or killed by an enemy with all power and no motivation for mercy. Wolfsangel kept me eager and afraid for each new chapter.

Liza has given us a new and exciting tale of a turbulent time in French history with her daring and endearing style. I thoroughly enjoyed this thrilling tale.

I approve this title for Awesome Indies.

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

Wolfsangel will be released November 16!



Havana Lost by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Havana Lost

by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Francesca Pacelli is the daughter of a crime boss and has spent most of her life so far in Cuba. The casino her father runs is in its heyday, but trouble is coming. Cuba is on the verge of revolution. In the charged environment, Francesca, or Frankie, never expects to fall in love, and especially not with Luis. After all, he was sent to kidnap her to raise funds for the revolution. Abandoning her father and his heavy-handed rule over her and his piece of Cuba, Frankie runs away with Luis and starts a new life as a Cuban wife supporting Fidel’s revolution.

Frankie’s act sets off a chain of events that lasts through the life of her son Michael and her granddaughter Luisa. Caught between the affluence of America and the strenuous conditions in Cuba, Frankie and her family struggle to hold onto the ones they love. Separation and death work against them in a fight for power, money, respect, and sometimes love.

When I heard about Havana Lost I knew I would enjoy it because I enjoyed Libby’s book, A Bitter Veil, so much. She didn’t disappoint with Havana Lost. Libby writes with a compassionate and fascinating personal approach to history with her fictional characters. Revolution means so much more to the people inside it, especially if they are in love and pregnant. The frank and honest way Libby looks at the truth about the countries, the people involved in the revolution, and their different points of view gives an important face to the historical facts.

I loved the way Libby’s characters were not quintessential good guys or bad guys. Luis supported the revolution for his reasons and Ramon for his, and both men act in ways that may be “bad” for their good ends. Frankie supported Luis and his values, but as a pampered American had different, more idealistic personal motives for the cause.  Later she embraces the role of crime boss for the power and place it gives her though she hated her father for it.

Spanning three generations, Libby takes on a lot with her tale. But nowhere did the action seem to fall flat or lose the interesting momentum. I cared about each person for themselves and for the other characters connected to them. At first her sudden time shifts disconcerted me, but I love the way they added mystery to the events transpiring and gave the very real sense that time flies. Her details bring Cuba and all the other places and their cultures to life. I thoroughly enjoyed Havana Lost and recommend this riveting historically-based tale.

I approve this title for Awesome Indies.

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

Buy on Amazon

Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat


Spirit of Lost Angels

by Liza Perrat

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Born in the farmlands of pre-revolutionary France, Victoire lives the tough but simple life of a commoner under tyrannical rule by nobles, church, and nature. Once she grows up, she must choose between limited means of survival. These means carry her to Paris and then back to her hometown of Lucie-sur-Vionne again after she is victimized by a noble. Tragedy soon tears her away from her village again and transports her back to Paris and into the Salpatiere, a madhouse and jail, from which she shouldn’t escape alive. Fortune smiles on Victoire and she is provided with means of escape and a new life. Will Victoire live for revenge? Will she survive the extreme violence of the building French Revolution?

Liza has created a beautiful history lesson in a story; the best method, in my opinion. Through Victoire, the reader can see many walks of life lived by people of the period and many perspectives on the volatile political landscape.

Victoire is a dynamic character who brings us through her life with honesty and courage.  Her difficult life, helplessness to her fate, and position in life engage the reader’s sympathy and understanding. She brings humanity and reality to the well-known and often overlooked aspects of a country in crisis.

A warning to sensitive readers: this book depicts extreme social situations. Victoire experiences sexual encounters, both consensual and non-consensual, straight, gay, and even adulterous. She is tortured, shot, and participates in riots in which authorities and rioters are harmed and even killed. Many children die of many tragedies. This is the French Revolution, not a bedtime story.

For those who are brave enough to face the grim realities of a people on the verge of revolution or death, Spirit of Lost Angels is a wonderful journey through the extremes of life within the country in crisis.

Spirit of Lost Angels is available as a print and e-book:


The Priest and the Peaches by Larry Peterson

The Priest and the Peaches

by Larry Peterson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pops and his five kids are in trouble. Motherless for several years and suffering without her care, they are limping through life in the 1960’s. Pops turned to drinking to ease his sorrow at losing his love, with dire consequences. Upon Pops death from the poisonous drink, the five children, led by eighteen-year-old Teddy and seventeen-year-old Joanie, must navigate the adult world. With sometimes hilarious trouble and catastrophe, they manage the funeral and the many responsibilities that fall on their shoulders. Watching over them is Father Sullivan, a true priest and manly man, who guides and protects the children in their struggles.

The Priest and the Peaches was heartwarming. Written in a reminiscing style, it felt as if the author was speaking of his own family and neighborhood. Each character was written with care, and their deep feelings came out through their journey. The Peach children faced their trials valiantly and with an uncommon maturity.

I really enjoyed the themes of redemption and forgiveness. Every character wronged someone, and the wrongs were all addressed in light of the theme “LYN” or “love your neighbor”. The character of Father  Sullivan portrayed a priest who was truly committed to his responsibilities, leading and guiding his community. Father Sullivan understood the real purpose of scripture and the church, which was refreshing in a literary world where the clergy are the villains.

The few problems in the book were a frequency of editing errors and an occasional tendency to ramble off into reminiscence that didn’t really fit with the story. Also probably the most important problem was that the beginning of the book was a bewildering whirlwind of names and nicknames, wrapped up in action that I wasn’t able to follow because I was still wondering who it was talking about. I didn’t really feel like I was able to know any characters until the second or third chapter. If I had sampled this book for my own entertainment without the commitment to finish and review it, I probably wouldn’t have persevered past the first few pages.

Once I fought through the beginning, though, I really needed to know what was going to happen to these poor kids, and how God was going to get them out of the next scrape. I cried several times at the touching moments of compassion and sacrifice. (That kind of thing always makes me cry!) Being a Protestant  who doesn’t love liturgy and ritual, I winced a little at the rigors of the Catholic services, but I loved the way the author brought out Jesus in them. The salvation message was the center of the theme and the way the flawed characters and their foibles fit into the Gospel was beautiful to see.

I really loved this story of joy in the presence of trials and recommend it to all ages.