Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: Dragon Walk by Melissa Bowersock


Genre: Mystery/Supernatural/Ghosts

Description:

"Four months ago, a pretty young marathoner disappeared while training on the isolated trails of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The police have few leads, no witnesses and no results. As a last resort, they call in private investigator Lacey Fitzpatrick and Navajo medium Sam Firecloud to pick up the rapidly cooling trail. Sam and Lacey, however, are on the outs. Their efforts to take their relationship to the next level failed miserably, and now they must redefine their working relationship, as well. Can they find the murdered girl and her killer, and still hang on to their partnership?"

Author:

“Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: biography, contemporary, western, action, romance, fantasy, paranormal and spiritual. She has been both traditionally and independently published and is a regular contributor to the superblog Indies Unlimited. She lives in a small community in northern Arizona with her husband and an Airedale terrier. She also writes under the pen name Amber Flame.”

Learn more about Ms. Bowersock on her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Seriously, dragons? Madison McClure, a twenty-six year old female jogger, disappeared four months ago while jogging in Griffith Park. The police have no leads or clues to follow and the case is growing cold. Maddie’s desperate parents, Esther and Randall McClure, want to call in Sam Firecloud and Lacey Fitzpatrick. Luckily the chief of police agrees to contact them as long as their investigation remains off the record.

While interviewing Esther and Randall, Lacey and Sam learn that Esther is an artist. When Maddie was young Esther would often throw a blanket over the back of her easel to make a magical cave for Maddie to play in while she painted. When Maddie grew up she was fascinated with dragons and channeled her artistic abilities into making intricate jewelry incorporating dragons from silver and gold. She was also half owner in a boutique jewelry store named Dragon’s Den in Los Feliz with Vanessa Medina, another artist friend with similar interests.

With mixed signals at every turn and the vast area around Griffith Park, even Sam and Lacey are confused.  After pinpointing a direction to focus their search, again things start looking dim. The twists and turns of the plot are captivating and enthralling. The ending will leave your jaw dragging the ground and the emotions will leave you overwhelmed. This is a tough one to wrap your head around. Well done, Ms. Bowersock.

I should also comment on Lacey and Sam’s relationship. Things are a little rocky at first, but they seem to be negotiating their situation with a lot of thought. The ball is in Lacey’s court and she decides to make her amends with Sam’s kids while she puts Sam on the back burner. He’s not going anywhere soon, their business partnership is too important to both of them. I want to thank everyone who pushed Ms. Bowersock to continues this series.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Dragon Walk is book five in A LACEY FITZPATRICK and SAM FIRECLOUD MYSYTERY SERIES. Each of these mysteries can be read as a standalone if you choose. However, I am enjoying the relationship developing between Lacey and Sam, so I would recommend reading from the beginning to get the full benefit of their storyline.

Format/Typo Issues:

None to mention.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: Finding Fiona by Donna Fasano


Genre: Romantic Comedy/Chick-lit/Mystery

Description:

“If her husband turns up alive—she'll kill him!

Explaining to the seriously sexy cop why she hasn't noticed her husband has been missing for three days is both embarrassing and sobering. But the day Fiona Rowland lifts her head above the churning chaos of kids, carpools, and a million things to do, annoyance turns to fury...then to worry. Where is Stanley?

Having one of those wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moments changes the way a woman looks at things: marriage, money, family, and friends. And when her best pal from high school arrives (packing her own secrets) to lend support, it turns out even the past isn't quite what it seems. Scrambling to make sense of the drama unfolding, Fiona discovers there's an upside to having your whole world turned upside down. It's easier to grab the good stuff.”

Author:

“USA Today Bestselling Author Donna Fasano has written over 40 women's fiction and romance titles that have sold over 4 million copies worldwide.”

Appraisal:

Finding Fiona is many different, sometimes contradictory things. It starts with a mystery. Where’s Stanley? Fiona’s husband disappeared and there aren’t many clues as to where he might be. There’s romantic comedy in a few different ways as romance threatens to take hold, but there are times when the romantic side of things is way too serious to be funny. Fiona’s best friend from her high school days stumbles into the middle of this crisis and alternates between helping and exacerbating the situation.

This was a fun story that kept me guessing, both about the mystery part, but also the romance and relationship part. I wasn’t sure who was going to end up with who, or how the different conflicts would resolve. It kept me guessing and, even more importantly, I liked the characters enough to care how it turned out.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Monday, January 8, 2018

Reprise Review: The Princess, the Pea, and the Night of Passion by Rosetta Bloom


Genre: Erotic Romance / Fairy Tale

Description:

“In this grown-up version of the famous fairy tale, Princess Adara is running from her old life and a forced betrothal. Adara wants love and passion, but knows she can't get them back home. When a raging storm halts her escape, Adara seeks refuge in the first dwelling she sees.

Prince Richard is tired of the trite, vain, frigid princesses his mother introduces him to in hopes he'll marry. On this stormy night, he's in the mood to love a woman, but he's all alone.

Adara arrives on the castle doorstep, saying she's a princess in need of help. The queen is doubtful and decides to lock Adara in a room with a pea to determine if the girl is as royal as she claims. Richard believes the beautiful, charming stranger, but he wants her locked in a bedroom for other reasons.”

Author:

Rosetta Bloom is a pen name for a thriller writer whose desire is to tell great stories filled with romance and passion. She loves adding a sexy twist of passion to give old tales new life. Her first endeavor is The Princess, the Pea and the Night of Passion.

To learn more visit Rosetta Bloom’s website.

Appraisal:

I have to admit I was just after a little guilty pleasure when I finished my last book. My brain needed a reset. So I chose this little fairy tale. I was absolutely delighted and impressed with the quality of this story. I was just expecting a spicy little fairy tale without much substance. That is not what I got.

Amira Adara Tafweek, daughter of the amir of Bastalia and her servant, Nasiha, are on the run and seeking shelter from the freezing rain one night. They are dressed as peasants when they knock on the castle kitchen door to ask for shelter from the night’s elements. The butler tries to turn them away, but when Prince Richard walks in and sees Adara he senses an opportunity for a little action. He insists the butler ready guest rooms for the wayward travelers. Here are the first two sentences of the story:

Prince Richard was feeling randy. He was trapped in the castle tonight, as the weather outside had turned unexpectedly nasty.”

This quote gives you the impression that the prince is just a playboy without any substance. At dinner that evening with the King, Queen, and Prince Richard things went well as Adara lied about being on a diplomatic mission for her father when their carriage broke down. After the carriage roof collapsed from the rain and ice they sought shelter. The men had supposedly gone for assistance. The Queen suspects that Adara is lying about being royalty and offers to send a messenger into town to let her delegation know that their Amira is safe and sound at the castle. This is the last thing Adara wants while trying to escape her fate back home. She and Nassi could both be put to death for embarrassing her father if they find her.

The Queen is sly and has the butler lock Adara in her room that night. Adara is sure her fate is sealed since there is no chance for escape now. Of course Prince Richard knows all the secret passage ways and lets himself into her room. They share a torrid night of passion that will curl your toes. Here we start seeing glimpses of the true Richard. He comes up with a plan to save Adara and Nassi that blew me away. You are sure to enjoy this retelling of a classic fairy tale. I look forward to reading more Passion-Filled Fairy Tales from Rosetta Bloom.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The Princess, the Pea and the Night of Passion is Book 1 of Passion-Filled Fairy Tales. Book 2 of Passion-Filled Fairy TalesBeauty and Her Beastly Love, is published and waiting for you to purchase at Amazon.

Sexual scenes that are graphic and may not be suitable for all readers.

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues with formatting or proofing.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count14-15,000 words

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Review: The In-Between Years by AB Plum


Genre: Psychological Thriller

Description:

“Already a killer, thirteen-year-old Michael Romanov jumps at the opportunity to please his father. Attaining financial independence while indulging in deliberate depravity is an unexpected bonus.

This dark story paints a corrupt man’s twisted demands from a son obsessed with gaining a father’s love and respect.”

Author:

“AB read at birth according to her mother. At age four, her public librarian rejected her application for a card. She was too short to see over the desk.

She stormed home undeterred. Older neighbor kids and loads of cousins provided a fix for her reading obsession. She traded them dolls and colors and small trinkets for scary comic books.

Years of teaching adolescent boys and working with high-testosterone tekkies fuel her interest in neuroanatomy and behavioral psychology. The terror those comics imprinted in her brain surfaces regularly.

Her dark, psychological thrillers probe the impact of the family on wounded hearts. She still holds public librarians in high esteem.”

Appraisal:

If you don’t like dark and twisted, this isn’t the book for you. But if you don’t mind an occasional excursion to the dark side, it might be. The protagonist of the story, Michael, may only be thirteen, but he’s way beyond his years in intelligence. I don’t think calling him a psychopath would be going too far either. Yeah, he may have a lot of advantages in some ways, but he’s still one sick puppy.

I could have easily found it impossible to like Michael or care what happened to him. Luckily (for me, not for Michael) the people and situations he had to deal with were bad enough that I could pull for any thirteen-year-old to make it through. Not even Michael deserves to go through stuff like that.

Intense. Dark. Twisted. If that appeals, this is for you.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

While this is the third book in a series I haven’t read the first two and didn’t feel like this made it hard to follow what was happening in this installment. It can definitely be read as a stand-alone.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Reprise Review: Woods Runner by Rejean Giguere


Genre: Historical Action Adventure

Description:

Before there was Canada or America, there was New France and New England. In the late 17th century the French and British fought for territory and riches in the new lands of North America.

On the French side, among the soldiers and the Indians fighting for their country were men called the Woods Runners. Coureur de Bois, the men who became known as Voyageurs - tough, hard-bitten adventurers who shaped the course of two countries.

Author:

Rejean Giguere is an avid outdoorsman, adventurer, photographer and artist. He enjoys fishing, hockey, golf, tennis, skiing and snowmobiling, his V-Max motorcycle and vintage Corvette. He grew up in Canada and Europe, and enjoyed a business career in Toronto and Ottawa. 

For more, visit his website.

Appraisal:

I never read historical novels. So, clearly, I picked this story because of the author—not too unusual, that’s how 60% of books are chosen. I’d previously read two stories by Mr. Giguere, and they’d both been a lot of fun, but more importantly for this easily bored reader, they’d both been very different from each other and from anything I’d previously read. Woods Runner also hit home on both counts.

The action takes place in the late 1600s on the North American continent before it was named and partitioned into America and Canada and deals with the conflict between the English and French invaders and the Native American tribes that lived and thrived around the Great Lakes.

In an author’s note, Mr. Giguere explains that his family tree originated around this time and one of his ancestors was a scout who was involved in an infamous massacre at Schenectady, New York.

Had the story focused closely on the historical details of the massacre and the politics of the time, I would certainly have nodded off--did I mention I never read historical fiction? Instead, I was given a fascinating glimpse into a fictionalized life of a Woods Runner as he traded ironware for pelts with the native American tribes. When this Woods Runner offered his services as a scout and unwittingly aided in the massacre, I saw the brutality and futility from his viewpoint.

I was particularly struck by how realistically the weather and terrain of what is now southern Canada was portrayed. Ever present, Mother Nature controlled the lives and actions of the humans in the story so ubiquitously that it effectively became another character in the story. I have no idea how accurate the historical details were (and I certainly don’t plan to read a history book to find out), but the authority of the writing gives me confidence that the author truly captured life in the 1600s.

This was an engaging read that kept me involved throughout and taught me some history despite myself. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, I’m certain you will enjoy this novel even more than I did.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

Too few to mention.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Review: The Itching Scars by Mohy Omar


Genre: Short Story Collection

Description:

“A collection of short stories dealing with different kinds of scars we keep. They never said being human could be this hard. They never told us about the scars we would carry. They only told us that this is what it means to be alive.”

Author:

Mohy Omar says he’s been writing all his life, but this collection is his first shot at publishing.

Appraisal:

A small collection of three short stories of about 3,000 words each. To say they are different would be both true and, I think, a compliment. The first one, about death, or life, or maybe both (I’ll let you decide) should trigger a bit of reflection on those subjects. A solid effort from a new author.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language and adult situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 10-11,000 words

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Reprise Review: Shadowline Drift by Alexes Razevich


Genre: Pete Barber

Description:

Jake Kendrick is a brilliant negotiator, even though—or maybe because—he's only three and a half feet tall. When a substance is discovered which holds the promise to end world hunger, Jake seems the perfect person to secure the rights from the diminutive Amazonian chief who claims to hold the only supply.

Author:

Alexes Razevich was born in New York and grew up in Orange County, California. She attended California State University San Francisco where she earned a degree in Creative Writing. After a successful career on the fringe of the electronics industry, including stints as Director of Marketing for a major trade show management company and as an editor for Electronic Engineering Times, she returned to her first love--fiction. She lives in Southern California with her husband. When she isn't writing, she enjoys playing hockey and travel.
She would love to have you join her on Twitter and get to know you on Facebook.

Appraisal:

This is the most unusual novel I’ve read this year. A story within which anything is possible and little is as it seems. The author kept me unbalanced and on edge throughout, and I enjoyed the ride.

A minimalistic plot gives the main character an overriding purpose to keep moving forward through seemingly insurmountable odds, and this frees the author to delve into a world of the real and the imaginary. For me, the reading pleasure came through the fascinating metaphysical backdrop that draped every character and event—eerily believable and richly detailed. Try this for a descriptive sentence: “Purple orchids burst through the fat green leaves like tethered birds aching to take flight,” or this for mood setting: “Drizzle fell, as soft as kisses on his skin.” I highlighted quite a few more.

A few loose ends remained untied at the conclusion, but I didn’t feel cheated. This story was about the journey not the plot. A bit like an acid trip, there’s little to be gained by explaining what went on, you have to experience it for yourself. I’d strongly recommend reading the Amazon sample. If you enjoy how the story starts, I don’t think you’ll regret reading through to the end.  

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No Significant Issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count50-55-000 words

Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: You. I. Us. by Annalisa Crawford


Genre: Short Story Collection

Description:

“In You. I. Us, Annalisa Crawford captures everyday people during poignant defining moments in their lives: An artist puts his heart into his latest sketch, an elderly couple endures scrutiny by a fellow diner, an ex-student attempts to make amends with a girl she bullied at school, a teenager holds vigil at his friend’s hospital bedside, long distance lovers promise complete devotion, a broken-hearted widow stares into the sea from the edge of a cliff where her husband died, a grieving son contacts the only person he can rely on in a moment of crisis, a group of middle-aged friends inspire each other to live remarkable lives. Day after day, we make the same choices. But after reading You. I. Us., you’ll ask yourself, ‘What if we didn’t?’”

Author:

“Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, a dog and a cat.”

For more, visit her blog.

Appraisal:

As the description says, each of these short stories focus on “everyday people during poignant defining moments in their lives.” Sounds serious, doesn’t it? And some of them are. But I found my emotions or reaction to the stories were more varied than that. Some got a laugh, maybe a sympathetic laugh or an I’m-glad-that-isn’t-me laugh, but still a laugh. While some stories are better than others, none are bad and your list of the best and worst would be different than mine. These are the kind of stories that which ones resonate with you are going to be dependent on your attitudes and experiences as much as the character’s. Those who like short stories and characters who feel real life, you’ll find plenty to like in this collection.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions and slang.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: Mona Lisa’s Secret by Phil Philips


Genre: History/Mystery

Description:

This book is described on Kindle as ‘A Historical Fiction Mystery & Suspense Novel Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones!’. There is plenty of room for good books in the ‘history and mystery’ genre. It gives nothing away to say that we are revisiting that most complex of Renaissance men, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Priory of Sion who are both guarding and leaving clues to an ancient secret.

Author:

Here is a link to the website of our Phil Philips. http://philphilips.com/about-the-author/ (There is another Phil Philips who writes for children: he is not our Phil Philips). Our Phil Philips lives in Sydney, Australia and his background is in digital graphic design. He considers himself a modern Renaissance man having an interest in ‘anything and everything’. He strives to create art in everything he does, be it a magazine layout, a painting in oils or writing a thriller. His writing style has, apparently, been compared to James Patterson and Matthew Reilly. He has published two books. Mona Lisa’s Secret is his second. The protagonist – Joey Peruggia - also carries the first book, but this book stands alone just fine.

Appraisal:

The book follows Dan Brownian paths. There is plenty of violence (although fortunately nobody loses body parts: I parted company with Dan Brown at that point in The Lost Symbol). There is plenty of historical stitching holding the story together (the Mona Lisa really was stolen in 1911): familiarity with Dan Brown’s tropes is taken as read, but is easy enough to catch up with should you be a history and mystery fan who has never read Dan Brown (you may be the only one …). The action moves from luxury in Los Angeles, to Paris, to the Jura mountains to Cyprus and back to Paris: the author has been to these places and takes pains to spice his scenes with local flavour.

There is plenty of meat to the plot, which is based on some fascinating historical facts with some whopping great ‘what ifs’ added. Who does not enjoy a good ‘what if’? The bigger the better!

There are a few unfocussed and/or unnecessary descriptive passages; the violence becomes a little wearying for this reader (although the hero’s escapes are most inventive); and a number of small tautologies (eg ‘the sink basin’) irritate slightly. There are a couple of plot holes. And I can just imagine what my Cypriot friends would say if they heard Cyprus described as ‘a small Greek island’ (we Europeans view the Med rather differently).

Despite the occasional fuzzy focus, the book gallops along like a horse just on the right side of bolting.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

‘f’ bombs and other swear words.

Format/Typo Issues:

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Judi Moore

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Monday, December 18, 2017

Reprise Review: Naughty or Nice by Various Authors


Genre: Short Story Anthology / Christmas
Description:

“A mix of magical, spooky, and romantic tales for the holidays.”

All proceeds of this book benefit Kids Need to Read.

Author:

Contributions from ten different authors:

Barbra Annino, J.R. Rain, Christiana Miller, Rose Pressey, Helen Smith, Heather Massey, Liz Schulte, Toni LoTempio, Danielle Younge-Ullman and J.W. Becton.

Appraisal:

A fun collection of longer short stories (the longest actually novelette length) with very little in common except they’re all good and the holiday season has some role in each. Some have a supernatural or paranormal element. Some have characters from one of the author’s novels, although I never felt I needed backstory about those characters to understand or enjoy the story.

I considered singling out stories that stood out as especially good or different than the others and realized I couldn’t. Genres run the gambit from a cozy mystery (Helen Smith’s Real Elves, featuring characters from her Emily Castles series) to what might be described as a psychological thriller in Barbra Annino’s The Perfect Gift. There are a couple stories where Santa Claus needs some help (Krampus Klaus by Christiana Miller and J.R. Rain’s The Santa Call). The possibility of budding romance on Chinese New Year in Heather Massey’s Fortune Cat’s Visit has a lesson about giving that, while the story wasn’t about Christmas, might have captured the spirit of the season best of all.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:
Spelling conventions vary and appear to be dependent on the residence of the author.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing and copyediting misses.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl


Approximate word count60-65,000 words