Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Book Reviews for “Xanadu’s Cavern” by Mallory M. O’Connor


Florida’s springs country perfect setting for mystery
After reading Mallory O’ Connor’s third installment from her occult thriller series, I want to go back and read the first two. The characters are fascinating and the premise of an intuitive main character solving a karst-related crime in North Florida was right up my alley. Although she uses fictitious place names, any spring lover will guess the setting and O’Connor captures the essence of rural North Florida. The dynamics of development is a large part of this novel and the author shows that she has an accurate grasp of the threats to the Sunshine State. But she deftly weaves environmental concerns into an exciting plot without a whisp of preachiness.
Richard P. Kilby

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Reviews of Xanadu’s Cavern on BookBub

Epiphany’s dreams hold as many questions as they do answers. When she lies down to sleep, the visions hit her almost immediately. This time, Epiphany’s vision is clearer than ever. The skull of what appears to be a wolf brings about some strong and foreboding feelings. She cannot quite put her finger on it, but this is not an average wolf–it is an animal like none she has ever seen. When she begins her research, Epiphany starts to realize that her dreams are leading her to something much more ominous. It’s not just an obscure fossil she has pictured. She may just have seen the clues to a murder.

Xanadu’s Cavern, by Mallory M. O’Connor, is the story of one psychic’s somewhat unwilling attempt to help solve the case of a missing environmentalist. Epiphany’s visions give her an advantage and serve as a guiding force as the search begins for Piers Waldon, the man with an overwhelming desire to protect the environment. Epiphany may be the only person who can answer the questions surrounding his mysterious disappearance.

I have to say the amount of science in O’Connor’s book is quite amazing for a story categorized as fiction. The author is more than adept at incorporating facts and pertinent bits of history into her writing. From environmental issues to historical accuracies, readers who crave truth in their fiction will appreciate O’Connor’s writing style.

O’Connor has chosen a topic that feels especially relevant given current events. The in-depth conversations between characters feel as much like interviews on reality shows or news stories as they do fictional exchanges. O’Connor has taken extreme care to keep her plot relevant, relatable, and engaging. Readers will be fascinated by Epiphany’s inner struggle to be of help while simultaneously fighting to understand how the gift of her psychic abilities could hold the answer to Piers’s plight.

It is worth noting that O’Connor writes primarily in dialogue. O’Connor is a master of this style. Her characters’ exchanges flow naturally and make reading move quickly from one chapter to the next.

Mystery-lovers will like the tone of O’Connor’s work while fans of realistic fiction will appreciate the nonfiction feel she has given her plot. Epiphany is a unique character in her own right and one to be remembered. Xanadu’s Cavern is an enthralling supernatural mystery that is superbly written.

– Recommended by Thomas on BookBub.com


Book Reviews for “Epiphany’s Gift” by Mallory M. O’Connor

Read Literary Titans Review and See Video Trailer >

“Epiphany’s Gift is an interesting cross between a Dan Brown thriller and an environmental call to arms. Buttressed by strong supporting characters, the flow of the plot and the pace are consistent and strong, while the story is unique and takes plenty of surprising turns. As pure thriller, there are tangled plot lines and riddles, intriguing red herrings and action-packed sequences that will satisfy any reader. The book is highly effective in its fictionalized take on serious issues in this fascinating crossover between paranormal and eco-friendly fiction. A page-turning escape for any fan of a good thriller.”
BY SELF-PUBLISHING REVIEW


Epiphany’s Gift is the first book in Mallory M. O’Conner’s new psychic/cli-fi series, featuring Epiphany Mayall, a feisty psychic sleuth with courage, daring, and smarts reminiscent of Murder She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher–but aided by remote viewing, visionary dreams, and a team of spiritual guides, including a wise old man and his two ethereal hound dogs. Epiphany–what a great name for a psychic!–is a sixty-something grandmother drawn to crime in the art world and environmental issues. Epiphany’s Gift combines the two when Epiphany’s college art history professor, John Bernhardt, calls her asking for help finding a rare pen and ink drawing by William Blake (yes, the eighteenth century poet and print maker) that has been stolen from the Kennedy Art Museum at the University of Ohio. That Bernhardt is also writing a series of articles advocating against fracking in the Ohio region gets the cli-fi mystery rolling.

Epiphany, also known as “Pip” and “Fannie”, drives from her home in Florida to Athens, Ohio to meet with Professor Bernhardt. The day following her briefing on the stolen artwork, Bernhardt is found dead. Though the local police ascribe his death to a heart attack, Bernhardt was a man in good health, and Epiphany is not so sure. Her doubts are answered when she is visited by Bernhardt’s ghost two days later, telling her he was poisoned. Suddenly murder is added to the search for the missing artwork. But how does Epiphany get this information to the authorities when her source is the victim’s ghost!

Saying anything more will give the mystery away, but Ms. O’Connor spins a suspenseful yarn that details the dangers of fracking and ventures into the upper echelons of the petroleum industry along the way. Great fun set in the age of Climate Change, with several intriguing characters–both good and bad–that seem destined to reappear in O’Connor’s work. The follow-up in the series is Key to Eternity, when Epiphany’s powers connect her to the Epic of Gilgamesh and a search for the secret of immortality. Give this series a try!
BY DAN ARMSTRONG


Book Reviews for “Key To Eternity” by Mallory M. O’Connor

What is the price of immortality? In Key to Eternity,book two of the Epiphany series, psychic Epiphany Mayall and art crimes investigator Maro Gaido find out when they try to keep an ancient ceramic tablet with a potentially monumental secret from falling into the hands of a corrupt art collector. As they follow the artifact’s trail from Baghdad to Miami to Geneva, they also find out they aren’t the only ones who are determined to locate the prize.

Through a combination of her psychic abilities and the technological resources of PI Maro Gaido and the FBI’s art crimes division, they zero in on the mysterious conspirators who people the shady global underworld of the arts and antiquities black market. Can they find the Gilgamesh tablet with its map to the “flower of immortality,” or will the treasure disappear forever into the private vault of a billionaire art thief?


Official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Key to Eternity” by Mallory M. O’Connor

Key to Eternity by Mallory M. O’Connor is a mystery thriller based on the pillaging of the Baghdad Museum during the U.S. invasion in 2003. Among the many artifacts that disappeared during the event was a set of seven Mesopotamian clay tablets said to hold the secret to immortality. As a private investigator working for the FBI, Maro Gaido has been tracking the stolen artifacts for 16 years. When the trail goes cold in Geneva, he turns to Epiphany Mayall and her psychic abilities once again for help. To his surprise, the usually-guarded Maro finds himself slowly opening up to a much older Epiphany, and their relationship deepens. However, they’re not the only ones looking for the holy relics. Will they be able to recover the tablets and prevent the secret from falling into the wrong hands?

I’ve always wondered how stolen art goes back into circulation, and Key to Eternity has offered an interesting sneak peek into the underground art society. The novel felt like a cool, delightful lesson in art history with true stories of stolen artifacts expertly woven into the dialogues. I strongly recommend this book to readers who are interested in art history for this reason alone.

Although Key to Eternity is the second book in a series, it can also be read as a standalone. The characters mention just enough of the first book to fill readers in but not so much as to spoil the entire plot. There is a cast of distinguishable characters, but I especially love how the author has taken the time to build up Maro’s character and reveal his backstory gradually. The attraction between him and Epiphany is beautifully subtle, and their relationship develops naturally.

For the most part, the book felt slow due to a lack of tension, and there was just enough suspense to keep me reading. I don’t know how the antagonist is portrayed in the first book, but he hardly seems threatening in this one. I didn’t feel like the characters were in any danger because of this. It’s also a bit too convenient that Epiphany can effortlessly tap into her power whenever the need arises.

The book is professionally edited as I could only find a few typos and missing punctuation marks, but there were some formatting issues that almost gave me the wrong impression. It was hard not to notice how some paragraphs were light grey instead of black like the rest. Regardless, these issues don’t affect my overall rating because I think it’s unfair to take a star off for only a handful of errors. There is some profanity, which I barely noticed, and a few intimate scenes that aren’t too explicit, making the book suitable for older teenagers and adults.

Overall, this is a lovely story that incorporates elements of art, romance, supernatural, and espionage. While it isn’t an action-filled thriller, it still has an entertaining plot with some great twists and a very satisfying ending. I’m pleased to rate Key to Eternity 4 out of 4 stars. I’m definitely going back to read the first book, and I look forward to seeing more of this series.


Praise for Key to Eternity

Key to Eternity, book two of the Imaginative and evocative, Key to Eternity sees the return of Psychic detective Epiphany Mayall with O’Connor delivering a vibrant mix of Sumerian history, myth and metaphors that coalesce into a compelling read.—Booktrib review 

 “An interesting cross between a Dan Brown thriller and an environmental call to arms . . .  a fascinating crossover between paranormal and eco-friendly fiction.”––Self-Publishing Review

“An enjoyably multilayered blending of supernatural fiction and art heist thriller.”—Kirkus  Reviews


KIRKUS REVIEWS

An enjoyably multilayered blending of supernatural fiction and art heist thriller.

A psychic and a special agent team up to solve an art theft mystery in a thriller with dark supernatural overtones.

Private investigator Maro Gaido, the brooding, sullen ex–FBI agent who’s one of the two stars of the latest novel from O’Connor (Epiphany’s Gift, 2019), is obsessed with tracking down and retrieving the thousands of priceless artifacts looted from the Baghdad Museum during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. In his capacity as a PI assigned to the FBI’s art theft team, Gaido has hunted thieves and identified buyers all over the world, aided by his fluency in Japanese, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, and Farsi. But as the novel opens, he feels he’s reached a dead end and devises a last-ditch tactic: He contacts Epiphany Mayall, a former colleague (and maybe something more) who works as a psychic medium in Watoolahatchee, Florida, whose “small Spiritualist community” bills itself as the “Psychic Capital of the World.” The contact seems more than coincidental: Just recently, Mayall had highly detailed dreams that she realized were visions of the looting of the Baghdad Museum. She hadn’t known what to make of the dreams, and her consultation with her spirit guide suggested that Gaido might be involved. Mayall is at times ambivalent about her own psychic abilities: “Sometimes she just wanted it all to go away—for the voices to fall silent, the images [to] fade to black. To stop being a conduit between the living and the dead.” But she agrees to help Gaido in an investigation that soon involves the thoroughly evil and nihilistic energy company CEO Derrick Rarian, who has motives of his own for recovering certain looted artifacts—motives that have much more to do with Mayall’s supernatural realm than Gaido’s world of the black market for art. O’Connor handles the nuances of their relationship with a pleasing combination of humor and maturity, and this is also true for the dynamic of Mayall’s extended family. The book’s thriller elements are somewhat predictable, but the writing throughout is clear and energetic.


LINKS TO MORE REVIEWS
The BookViral Review of Key To Eternity


Book Reviews for “American River: Tributaries” by Mallory M. O’Connor

REVIEW ON ONLINEBOOKCLUB.ORG

“A wide variety of topics are introduced while sketching the growth of each family during their journeys of living and adapting. The story flows fairly smoothly though these numerous societal issues.

The author writes of problems facing gay men centering on the shock and rejection of family members. Julian McPhalan as a gay young man deals with his problems in a self-destructive manner.”…

Review Source: OnlineBookClub.org by FranJac64


REVIEW ON ONLINEBOOKCLUB.ORG

“The book starts with an explanation of each family, their different background, and who their members are. This is the easy version of how they are related. I have to admit that I found this annoying, as I would much rather have that information as an annex I could check in the back of the book every time I had questions about that, and not as the first thing I saw in the book. Next, we have a brief explanation of the American River, where it is born, how it is formed. As I have not seen the river, or the places where the book is set, I truly appreciate the attention to detail and the vivid description the author makes.”

Review Source: OnlineBookClub.org by piecesfallapart


BY LITERARY TITAN

Second chances are not easy to come by, but when they roll around, you grab them and hold on for dear life. No family quite knows the truth of this old adage as well as the McPhalan clan. Kate, Alex, and their mother, Marian, share a bond that unites them in more ways than one. All three women have had a relationship with Carl, and all three of them have found ways to discover love once more. When Kate decides to breathe new life into Mockingbird Valley Ranch, the home in which they all lived as a young family, mother and both daughters are presented with an amazing and unforeseen opportunity to renew themselves and their relationships with one another as adults.

Mallory M. O’Connor’s American River Trilogy focuses on several different storylines surrounding the McPhalan family. These parallel plots play nicely against one another as the book progresses. Readers are treated to thorough descriptions of Kate and Alex’s backgrounds as well as a clear look at Marian’s history. O’Connor includes a lengthy list of secondary characters with their own storylines and this, at times, can be a little difficult to follow.

Set in the 1970s, O’Connor masterfully integrates mentions of now historic events alongside the characters’ numerous dilemmas. She covers everything from the moon landing to the increasing focus on feminism. Each of the events and historical aspects gives the book a richer and more polished feel.

American River Trilogy touches on a variety of difficult topics including post-traumatic stress disorder and interracial relationships. O’Connor deals with each of these highly-charged topics with style and grace. Her characters are genuine and leave readers rooting for them every step of the way.

Alex’s particular story line is tragic and likely the most down-to-earth of any of the characters. The trauma of her past and the way it impacts her present life is a striking commentary on an all-too-common facet of the lives of many. O’Connor’s slow reveal of Alex’s damaged childhood is effective and powerful. As much as I found Carl’s inclination to move through the women in the McPhalan family to be somewhat disgusting in retrospect, I saw a whole new side of him when he came to Alex’s aid in her time of need.

O’Connor’s writing is, what I would consider, specialized. There exists a specific audience for this particular piece. Centered around the arts and focusing primarily on the world of music, there is a plethora of discipline-specific terms and ideas within American River Trilogy. I did not find myself able to relate easily to many of Kate and Alex’s experiences.

Readers who seek historical accuracy intermingled with their drama will appreciate O’Connor’s particular style. Classically-trained musicians and those who enjoy reading fiction with a peppering of music-specific terms will find American River Trilogy the perfect read.

Pages: 394 | ASIN: B079659RH5

Review Source: American River: Tributaries, Mallory M. O’Connor


Book Reviews for “American River: Currents” by Mallory M. O’Connor

Review by Luyt30

One thing about us Art Historians, we know how to tell a story.

Mallory M O’Connor captivates and transports the reader by using her artistic background to its full extent in the vivid descriptions, historical accuracy and true presentation of art in all its forms. With an immersive writing style, O’Connor helps the reader feel the luscious warmth of the Sacramento valley, the clean serenity of Tokyo and the daggers of cold that San Francisco winters bring. Colorful language is pulling the reader in at every instance. It’s wonderful to read a book by an author who sees beauty in the details and knows how to manifest that in the written word.  

In this book we follow the McPhalan, Morales and Ashida families, maneuvering their way through the ‘60s in the United States. We learn the unadulterated truth about the lavish lives of maestro’s, musicians and artworld glitterati- mostly because of the adultery involved. Do not be fooled by the ostentatious setting of the book, however. The zeitgeist is disrupted and altered by the Vietnam war, the United Farm Workers movement, the Civil Rights movements and the Women’s liberation movement. Perhaps O’Conner brings the story alive so effortlessly because she lived through it herself.  

The currents in the title is a perfect metaphor for the lives of these individuals, weaving together, flowing towards and away from one another, all the while trying to find the easiest route. In a Catch-22-esque fashion, the absurd complexity of their relationships is taken as convention, with only Alex questioning their conduct.

The ideal reader for this book would be an art connoisseur, as O’Connor seamlessly blends the artists’ and musicians’ lives with the political and social turmoil that filled the US in the 1960s. Anyone with an interest in the arts, especially music, will find this book captivating, as well as those with a keen interest in American history or just a touch of drama. Being a slave to the arts myself I especially enjoyed the honest depiction of the art world and subtle references to well-known artworks.  

American River: Currents, part two in the trilogy, is a thoroughly good read and I would score it 3 out of 4. Though I don’t care much for romantic chaos, the fact that the book was filled to the brim with specific and accurate art references, perfectly placed in context, sold it for me. The intricate detail and obvious obsession with the arts could easily charm even the most indifferent of readers by the first sonata.


BY LITERARY TITAN
Kate’s family has just survived the devastating loss of her brother, Julian, and she is learning that her father’s coldness toward her beloved brother could have taken a much different turn had fate not intervened. As a new mother, Kate faces many challenges. One of those challenges is finding an effective and appropriate way to handle the affection she receives from Stefan, her husband’s friend and her sister’s true love. While Kate is facing one obstacle after another as a young mother, Tommy is reeling from the loss of his mother and coping with his fiance’s mysterious illness. Not to be left out of the cast of characters meeting life head-on, Marian is learning to love herself again with the help of a much younger and virile man named Nick.

Mallory M. O’Connor’s characters are a force with which to be reckoned in American River: Currents. O’Connor has created one of the most unique blends of historical fiction and the soap operas of the 80s. This lengthy novel features three families, ethnically diverse and intertwined in each other’s lives–in some cases, too much so. The bounce back and forth between chapters gives the entire book the comfortable feel of watching episodes of a well-established soap opera.

O’Connor has, without a doubt, done the research and created amazingly accurate and detailed accounts of historical events. Each of these events is not just described but somehow affects the characters day-to-day lives. From Cesar Chavez to John F. Kennedy, she has succeeded in further bringing life to her characters by having them live through gripping and history-making events.

As O’Connor’s chapters tend to vary from one family to the next, I found that I looked most forward to those focusing on Marian and Nick. To say the two are interesting would be putting it mildly. In an otherwise heavy book, Marian and Nick’s dynamic provides much-appreciated lighthearted moments and a breather from the drama of the other family members. Marian, not without her own faults, is my favorite character. Being one of the older characters in O’Connor’s work, she is struggling to make her way as an artist and is learning to love herself again and finding that trust is something she just might be able to feel once more. Nick is just the remedy for what ails her.

I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of sadness at the relationship between Alex and Stefan. I see Alex as a strong woman who is, when it comes to personal relationships, weak and needy. The manner in which she pursues Stefan is almost pitiful. She is an interesting character indeed.

It seems like such an obvious thing to note, but I love the way O’Connor ends each chapter. Not every author currently producing books brings chapters to a nice, succinct close. O’Connor provides closure and never leaves reader hanging or feeling as if they have hit a brick wall when the new chapter quickly takes a new direction.

American River: Currents is beautifully written and consists primarily of long strings of dialogue between well-developed and easy to visualize characters. A long book but one that is an almost effortless read, American River: Currents is sure to engage readers and lead them to follow the cast of characters into the rest of O’Connor’s books in the series.

Pages: 453 | ASIN: B07BJ3XT2M


GREG DAWSON, AUTHOR OF BUSTED IN BLOOMINGTON AND HIDING IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” And so it is with the star-crossed McPhalan-Morales-Ashida families in American River: Currents, Book 2 of Mallory O’Connor’s splendid trilogy – a meditation in novel form on the agonies and ecstasies of the great American experiment at a crucible moment.
After ending Book 1 in 1963 with a traumatic family death, O’Connor follows her yearning, conflicted characters through the dystopian tumult of the ’60s. As America descends into unimaginable chaos and heartbreak, so do their lives. Book 2 ends with the tragedy at Kent State, searingly portrayed.

O’Connor’s writing is lyrical and bold, suffused with the sensibility of painters and pianists. She is a master of still-life renderings of meadow, mountain and mood, and of sheer action. Describing a character’s tumble down stairs: “Arms pin-wheeling wildly, she tried to grab the banister, but her hands were slick with blood. The landing at the base of the stairs tilted crazily, then rushed up to meet her so fast that there wasn’t time to scream. Stars exploded on the blackness inside her eyelids, and her mouth was flooded with a salty, hot liquid. Was that blood? Such a lot of blood.”

O’Connor is uncanny in channeling the interior voice of the artist at work, witness this scene with Marian, who left her land baron husband in California to be a painter in New York. “…she spread washes of blue and green across the canvas. Now a bit of orange and a little alizarin crimson. A darker green. A bit of violet over here……bring the human form into clearer focus with subtle dark and light accents that will heighten the emotional impact of the work. When a thin ray of morning sunshine finally trickled through the hazy glass and cast a wedge of muted light across the bare wood floor, she was still standing before the easel, lost, and found, in her work.”

Just as the entranced reader, awaiting Book 3.
Greg Dawson, Author of Busted in Bloomington and Hiding in the Spotlight


BY AIMEE ANN FROM RED HEADED BOOK LOVER
“American River: Currents is book two in the American River Trilogy and wow what a sensational sequel! A short while ago I read and reviewed the first book in the American River Trilogy called American River: Tributaries and my verdict was that it was a moving piece of literature that should not be missed. Upon finishing the first book, I instantly wanted more but I had to wait for the second book to be released and now that it is I am so happy and excited to share the second book with you lovely readers!

The story of American River: Currents is an incredible one that is powerful as well as moving. As I read American River: Currents, I felt like my heart was in my mouth because the book was full of pent-up tension which felt like it would burst at any moment. The only way I can describe it is like an earthquake barrier.”

Full review on Red Headed Book Lover official book review site.


Book Reviews for “American River: Confluence” by Mallory M. O’Connor

BY LITERARY TITAN
One type of story that captivates a large portion of readers is the story of humanity. The author, Mallory M. O’Connor, excels at capturing powerful moments of human interaction in her novel American River: Confluence. O’Connor’s work involves a host of social issues—sexuality, politics, race relations—all disguised in what seems to be a book about artists pursuing their passions.

This book follows three families of different cultures that manage to connect. They are all tied to the same area, and while the young adults have mostly wandered off to different regions of the U.S., this story is about them all finding a reason to come home to celebrate life, art, and diversity which gives the story a greater sense of symmetry. O’Connor filled this book with real-life problems such as racism, mental health issues, sickness, and political confrontations. Therefore, this book can be a guide for helping people navigate their way through similar tragedies in their own life.

The overall story arc is intricate and well thought out. It is a little unclear where the book is going at first and what the focal point will be, but there are exciting turns everywhere that keep the readers’ attention until the end. Several subplots play out to give the book a lot of depth. On the surface, it seems like the McPhalan family is working through their problems with the ultimate goal of setting up a musical festival on Mockingbird Valley Ranch, the family’s ancestral property. Underneath, O’Connor raises awareness of many social issues. These social issues are picked apart one by one to allow the reader to think through different perspectives regarding them. While set in the 1970’s, the problems the characters face are problems that are prevalent in our society today, potentially making this book a timeless classic.

If you did not read the previous books to get familiar with the intricacies of the story you would need to refer to the “Cast of Characters” page at the beginning. The book immerses readers from the start with drama and doesn’t let up until the end, so lacking thorough character introductions early in the story, even though its the last of the series, can detract from the impact of certain events. I highly suggest you read books one and two before confluence.

American society, as well as many others around the globe, could drastically benefit from reading this book. While many authors hide a political agenda in their work, it’s often obvious where they stand on controversial issues; O’Connor, on the other hand, hid her feelings on many of the topics, which requires distinct talent. Ultimately, she encourages discussion and introspection through the characters. If it weren’t for some minor language concerns, this book would be well suited in a high school reading curriculum to expose students to the complexity of the world they live in and the core of human nature.

Pages: 364 | ASIN: B07HL12C8T
Review Source: American River: Confluence, Mallory M. O’Connor