Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: Love, Christmas - Holiday stories that will put a song in your heart! By Taylor Lee, Jennifer St. Giles, and Nancy Radke

Editor's note:  As I explained in part 1 of this review, we're going to stretch it out. Reviewing a box set takes a lot of words, you know? Here's part three.

Genre: Romance/Christmas/Box set


Put a song in your heart with 20 all-new Christmas Romances from NY Times, USA Today, and national best-selling authors. Each brand-new title is inspired by a Christmas carol and will lift your spirits and bring on the holiday cheer.”

Santa Baby by Taylor Lee - Lily's only hope was that this time, he wouldn't be able to find her.

Merry, Did You Know? by Jennifer St. Giles - Can a Christmas Miracle change the future of a woman who doesn't believe in love and a man who can't love again?

I'll Be Home For Christmas by Nancy Radke - When former a former Navy SEAL plucks a woman from the Mediterranean Sea, he discovers a fighter tougher than he.


Taylor Lee: My stories are the stories of my heritage. From the residue in my blender of mixed races, cultures and world views, my characters emerge. It comforts me to know that while evil slinks in the shadows, the ‘good guys’ of the world sniff it out – and snuff it out.

My stories are not your mama's soft edged romances with swashbuckling heroes and blushing heroines. Heck no! These guys are arrogant alpha males and the feisty women who bring them to their knees -and vice versa... They fight hard, love hard and don't mince words. They are dangerous men and women in dangerous times. Love, passion, and ridding the world of evil? What's not to love?”

To learn more please visit Ms. Lee at her website or friend her on Facebook.

Jennifer St. Giles writes in multiple genres, including: romance, paranormal, contemporary, historical and military and time travel. She is a passionate patriot, event planner and the Vice-President of a charitable foundation which helps women and children’s causes… I grew up in Miami. Went to nursing school in Georgia, where I now reside. I raised and home schooled three great kids. I wrote for nine years before I sold a book, which made me a firm believer that a person should NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP ON THEIR DREAMS.”

To learn more about Ms. St.Giles please visit her website or follow heron Facebook.

Nancy Radke grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in SE Washington State. She attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade. She spent most of her childhood exploring the Blue Mountain trails that bordered the ranchlands… Ms. Radke has also been a school teacher and gone through survival and outward bound training, including long-distance ocean swimming.”

To learn more please visit Ms. Radke’s website or follow her onFacebook.

In this third group of novellas from Love, Christmas I am reviewing more new-to-me authors. I chose stories that sounded like they had a common theme: this time of someone who happened to be in need of a Christmas miracle.

Santa Baby by Taylor Lee:

Lily Peterson is on the run with her four-year-old daughter, Gabriel, from a crooked police detective who is trying to frame her for the murder of her husband. In a town where she knows no one, and dealing with financial hardships, an unreasonable daytime employer, and a degrading night job as a stripper, Lily is at her wits end.

This provocative plot unwinds slowly as we learn more about Lily and the Vice Squad Captain, Lieutenant Zach Meloy. Zach is visually captivated by Lily’s beauty but can tell she is hiding something and suspects she is running from the law. He intends on finding out why one way or another.

Luckily for Lily, Zach is a good cop she has no need to fear. The dialogue and storyline are realistic as Zach tries desperately to earn Lily’s trust. With Christmas coming up quickly, Gabriel plays heavily into the storyline in a unique way. Lily definitely needs a miracle for everything to work out, so this story fits well in this group.

Merry, Did You Know? by Jennifer St. Giles:

MC Love is in a bit of a predicament; she’s eight months pregnant and hiding from her controlling, wealthy, dysfunctional family, and the paparazzi. MC, which stands for Merry Christmas since she was born on Christmas day, is a twenty-six year-old artist and heir to Love International Resorts. Although a little misguided, she is probably the most level-headed in her crazy family. Her mother, True Love, is owner and CEO of Love International Resorts and gave all of her children punnish love names. Besides MC there is Summer, Never Ending, Sweet, Timeless, Pure, Forever, and Madly Inn. Her step-sisters Pure and Sweet have a hit reality show, Love’s Truth, which amplifies the Loves’ insanity to the world. Get the picture? Merry, Did You Know is unique and heart-felt, but not all fun and games. Because MC had grown up in the dysfunction of the Love’s family dynasty, she decides that in order for her child to have a normal life, she must give the baby up for adoption.

Living in a beachfront condo on the Georgia coast, MC is mesmerized listening to her mysterious neighbor playing his guitar and singing his sad songs in the early morning hours every day. At a chance meeting one morning, after his beach run, Doug Warren introduces himself to MC and inadvertently catches a glimpse of adoption papers.

Doug has lost all hope in life since losing his wife and daughter three years earlier. He survives one day at a time since this tragedy. Although not wanting to impose his thoughts on MC, he is determined to make sure she doesn’t make the mistake she is determined to make. The dialogue throughout is excellent. Here is an example of MC talking about her art and Doug’s reply to her statement:

Art, like music, needs to reach and move the soul. If it doesn’t do that perfectly, then it has failed.”

Ouch, that’s a sharp sword of judgment you swing. In my book, failure is only found in not doing something and perfection doesn’t exist. Ever. Maybe you’re being too harsh a critic on yourself?”

Merry, Did You Know? is a poignant, heartfelt story that follows these two souls as they establish their relationship and unwittingly become an integral part in each other’s lives. This tale will pull at your heartstrings and should have earned five stars, but there were too many minor proofing issues towards the end of the journey to earn that for a novella. However, I did love this one and it is one of my favorites so far in this boxed set.

I'll Be Home For Christmas by Nancy Radke:

As war breaks out along the Mediterranean Sea, Lee Trahern, retired Navy SEAL, packs a small rowboat with supplies and escapes into the vast sea alone.

Sofia Morgan had been visiting a college friend when the war broke out, but manages passage on an old steamer ship loaded with too many refugees trying to make their own escape. Unexpectedly she is pushed overboard into the sea. With no way to get back on board the old steamer, she traps air in her wet cloak to improvise a flotation device. When she spots a small rowboat, she makes her way in that direction hoping the man rowing will take her aboard.

Ms. Radke did a wonderful job developing these two characters with realistic dialogue and alternating points-of-view. Since Lee and Sofia are basically the only characters in this tale, we get an up-close view as they battle the elements and predators while they try to survive this grueling journey on their own. I found myself captivated as I sent up a wish for a Christmas miracle to sustain them both until help arrived. Lee was certainly a strong, capable man but Sofia brought a balance sensibility to their predicament without which Lee could not have survived. I’ll Be Home For Christmas is not your typical Christmas story.

I learned while writing this review that Ms. Radke has several stories about the Trahern clan. I would love to see this story continue and I would hope Lee gets to meet Sofia’s three-legged dog. :)  

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK


The stories in Love, Christmas are new and never before published. They are also classified as Clean and Wholesome stories. However, Santa Baby does have some unfavorable language and a few F-bombs.

Santa Baby by Taylor Lee: No significant proofing issues.

Merry, Did You Know? by Jennifer St. Giles: I found a small number of proofing issues.

I'll Be Home For Christmas by Nancy Radke: No significant proofing issues.

Rating: Santa Baby by Taylor Lee: **** Four Stars

Rating: Merry, Did You Know? by Jennifer St. Giles: **** Four Stars

Rating: I'll Be Home For Christmas by Nancy Radke: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 375-400,000 words for the full set. Each story is novella size, 20,000 words or slightly less.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Review: What Does Queer Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett

Genre: Non-Fiction


For much of his life Chris felt unsure of how to politely address and to interact with people who place themselves outside of the traditionally encouraged heterosexual mold. This fear of appearing ignorant or rude led him to avoid interacting with some people and prevented him from sticking up for others when he should have.

The truth is that being uncomfortable and unsure around a new concept does not make anyone a bad person but when that mindset prevents one from being fair and equitable to others then there is a problem. After reading this Quick and Dirty Guide to LGBTQIA+ vocabulary you'll be confident enough to ask polite questions about gender and sexuality and informed enough to understand the answers. “


Chris Bartlett lives in Colorado with Sophia, his Chihuahua. For more from Chris, visit his website.


I'm straight, male bodied, and cisgendered. How about you? If you're not sure what that means or aren't confident you know all the terms someone else might use to describe the same things about themselves, but you'd like to have that knowledge, this book might be for you. As the author explains in a note at the front of the book:

Many Americans are just recently finding themselves comfortable with homosexuality and are surprised to discover that there are more identities that they now need to account for. Many more are still acclimating to “sex” and “gender” not meaning the same things (if that describes you, never fear, the difference is explained in this book.)

This book is written for them; for those who are curious, well meaning, but perhaps not completely comfortable with people who identify in ways that our culture has traditionally not accepted. This book is non-confrontational and non-judgmental; come as you are and leave as you will.

Although I knew a fair amount of what the book covers going in, the description of his target reader still hit close to home for me. I learned a lot, both refining and strengthening my existing knowledge.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 9-10,000 words

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reprise Review: Cairo Caper by Barbara Silkstone

Genre: Humor/Mystery/Adventure


Wendy Darlin joins her archaeologist boyfriend, Professor Roger Jolley, in a quest across Egypt looking for a lost artifact for the Egyptian Antiquities Society that will assist them in locating Antony and Cleopatra’s burial tomb. All they had to do was get from Cairo to the Temple of Taporisis Magna alive. However, not everyone is who they say they are and they find themselves running for their lives.


Barbara states on her blog, “My writing history began humbly enough when I started an underground newspaper in Catholic grade school. I was threatened with excommunication by the nuns so I went further underground. I’ve packed many adventures into my life excusing even the disasters as ‘material for my next book.’… I enjoy doing playful things with language, blending two distinct words to create a new word… I now write criminally funny fairy tales ripped from the headlines… shaken, not stirred, and served with a twist and a chuckle.”

This is Ms. Silkstone’s third novel in her Wendy Darlin series. She has three other comedic mystery books along with her “true fiction,” The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman. Silkstone contributed to the anthology Indie Chicks and The WG2E All-For-Indies Anthologies: Spring Hop Edition. Her books are also available on You can connect with Ms. Silkstone at her new blog although she’s been messing with us by posting recently on her old blog, too. Her facebook page is yet another option. I also feel like I should add that Ms. Silkstone hosts The Second Act Cafe that is dedicated to getting even by having fun.


The non-stop action starts in the first chapter with Wendy hurling a large glass ashtray, the only weapon she could find, into the nose of an assassin on their sixth floor hotel room balcony in Cairo, sending him toppling over the railing. His body apparently disappears from the sidewalk and Wendy and Roger are followed on a comedic run through a crowded Egyptian market place. Poor Wendy, she is one smart gal and very capable, but things just seem to happen to her. Unsurprisingly, Wendy soon becomes instrumental in being able to fulfill their quest.

With the addition of characters like Habib, Petri Dische, and librarian, wannabe-author Fiona Feelgood, who was looking for her own Egyptian treasure and material for her book Erotica for Dummies, put me in mind of Silkstone’s own true fiction book, The Adventures of a Love Investigator. Then there is the mystery of who is legit and who is involved in the antiquities black market. The way Ms. Silkstone plays with words is unrivaled and the way she incorporated segments from favorite movie clips was genius. She uses sharp wit throughout her stories, her plots are strong, and the action nonstop. I really enjoyed reading about Wendy and her tomb raiding adventures and hope to see more of Habib and quite possibly Tickemoff, the friendly street peddler, in future Wendy Darlin books.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK


This story stands on its own, and is young adult appropriate.

Added for Reprise Review: Cairo Caper was a nominee in the Mystery category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran September 12, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues with editing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review: A Ton of Gold by James R Callan

Genre: Thriller/Western


"A 178 year-old folktale causes murder, kidnapping, and arson in 2012 Texas. A contemporary suspense novel, in which Crystal Moore, a young computer scientist, is dragged into danger when thugs set out to kill her only living relative, the 76 year-old grandmother who raised her. Crystal has no idea who would want to harm her grandmother, or why. In the midst of murder, arson, and kidnapping, the man who nearly destroyed Crystal emotionally is coming back. This time, he can ruin her career. She will need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, her street-wise housemate, and her feisty, straight talking grandmother."


"After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing. He has had four non-fiction books published. He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense. His eleventh book is scheduled to be published in 2016."

James also presents workshops in the U.S. and in Mexico on various aspects of the writing craft.

For more information visit the author's page on Amazon


This book is more remarkable for its characters than its plot - but that is pretty good too. It's a thriller with plenty of humour:

I'm not sure how hard to hit you. But you can help me. You keep making noises and I'll hit you a bit harder each time. You stop making noises when I hit you hard enough. Ok? Shall we start?”

The prologue sets the scene in Texas where a ton of gold is tipped into a lake and a small boy is taken by Indians. Nearly 200 years later we meet Crystal who works for a data recovery firm. When her beloved grandmother, Eula, says that someone is trying to kill her the story takes off. Is the lost gold deep in a lake on Eula's land? There are those who think so and they won't hesitate to commit arson or murder in their pursuit of the treasure.

Crystal is the main character, clever and aware of her abilities. However, she lacks the strength to assert herself in the face of opposition from those who are older and more experienced than herself, especially her old college tutor, Dr Krupe. He lurks in her memory, making her feel incompetent and it is very interesting to watch her develop throughout the book into a courageous, resourceful woman. The other characters hold good too: Mark, her boss who used to be a bull-rider in rodeos; Brandi, her colourful, supportive flat-mate; and of course, Eula, her capable, undefeated grandmother.

The story is well paced, with tension maintained throughout and it is especially good near the end:

He pictured the target moving as he twirled the rope. Even in the dark, his mind locked on the man as the rope picked up speed. Without consciously thinking about it, he let the hemp glide through his hand. One second, two seconds, and he pulled it back.

About half way through the story the policeman, Tom, with Crystal and Mark, sets out the facts as they know them and pulls in all the strands of information. This is very helpful to the reader who gets a breathing space from tension and a chance for a clear look at the mystery before moving forward again.

The dialogue flows easily and entertains:

"Sounds like you're luckier'n a three-legged chicken. You get a good look-see?"

The sense of place is strong; the dialogue makes it real and you can feel the heat and smell the dust. There is a great sense of peace around the lake on Eula's land, the marshy shallows, the deep blue of water and sky, the slopes green with pine trees. And then a contrast of dark, smoke-filled bars and predatory cowboys:

A young man, a big hole in the seat of his jeans, shirt unbuttoned and hanging open to reveal a mass of dark hair, sat on the corner of their table . . .

On the negative side - the character, Phil, is a bit of a distraction. He adds nothing to the story; his only purpose is to echo Crystal's situation with Dr Krupe which is unnecessary.

Altogether, this book is both exciting and fun with a very satisfactory ending - including just a hint of romance. It is the first of a series, with the second one published already. Readers will be delighted to begin another mystery and it will be so interesting to see how these, now familiar, characters develop . . .

Buy now from:    Amazon US   Amazon UK


Some mild violence

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Joan Slowey

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reprise Review: Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan

Genre: Fantasy


Carrie’s story is unique, she can not only read your mind she can see and read your soul. She had been damned by the actions of others thousands of years ago and the only reason Carrie wasn’t burning in Hell was that her ka, or life force, was unable to separate from her body. Her soul had been sold to Lucifer, and he is quite proud of his prize. After a several millennia Carrie finally finds a soul pure enough to fight for. Sebastian is not seeking redemption; he sold his soul for the greater good and is willing to pay the price. Carrie takes it upon herself to find a way to renegotiate his contract with the demon Keziel. To do this she must travel into the depths of hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways. As the cost of her journey rises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.


Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.”

For more, visit the author's website and follow her on Facebook.


Elizabeth Corrigan did an excellent job developing her characters and she has taken minor liberties with some myths to make a more entertaining story, however she has tried to keep historical accuracy. I believe she succeeded. Carrie’s story is unique and I could appreciate how she lived her life. She has two longtime friends who check in with her, the first of these is the demon Bedlam. He truly is chaos in the most fun way and he is not a bad guy. Here is the way she describes their first meeting:

I detected neither the sanctimoniousness of the angels nor the malicious cruelty of the demons. Instead, I felt a spiral of rotating emotions that left me dizzy enough that I had to put my hand against a stone pillar for a moment to steady myself… The man’s current emotional state similarly seemed to lack any center, though it cycled around guilt, confusion, anger, and a firm desire to be distracted from those three emotions…

Bedlam says:

Okay, so here’s my problem. You know how sometimes you start doing something, and it seems like a good idea at the time, but then suddenly there are dead bodies everywhere, and you’re not quite sure how that happened?” …

I would love to be able to share the story here, but Bedlam rambles, then continues with:

Now, let me say right here that it was all supposed to be a joke. I really didn’t expect them to take it quite so literally. These were people who held on to their religion through generations of persecution and slavery. And a gold cow? Their religious texts say that God made them in His own image, so I thought they’d be pretty quick to dismiss that one.” “Not so much?” I asked. He shook his head.

Through all the years Bedlam has been a true friend to Carrie and has done everything in his power to protect her. Her other true friend is the earth-bound angel Gabriel who has stolen her heart, but he seems to love her no more than the rest of mankind. The story is fast moving and highly entertaining with a lot of thought provoking material. It was a fun roller coaster ride while it lasted. It would be very interesting to see how this journey affects the rest of Carrie’s existence.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK


Added for Reprise Review: Oracle of Philadelphia was a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran April 10, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on an advance reader copy of this book, so I’m unable to judge this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: Love, Christmas - Holiday stories that will put a song in your heart! by Leanne Banks, Stephanie Queen, and Rachelle Ayala

Editor's note:  As I explained in part 1 of this review, we're going to stretch it out. Reviewing a box set takes a lot of words, you know? Here's part two.

Genre: Romance/Christmas/Box set


Put a song in your heart with 20 all-new Christmas Romances from NY Times, USA Today, and national best-selling authors. Each brand-new title is inspired by a Christmas carol and will lift your spirits and bring on the holiday cheer.”

We Need a Little Christmas by Leanne Banks - Can a handsome cynic become a Christmas believer?

Let It Snow by Stephanie Queen - A stranger and a snow storm on Christmas Eve create the ultimate test for Dane & Shana.

Deck the Hearts by Rachelle Ayala - Can Holly's jolly Christmas spirit help Grinch Gordon Gills save the town of Christmas Creek?


Leanne Banks is a national #1 best-selling author with over fifty romance novels to her credit. Leanne was born and raised in the wonderful town of Roanoke, Virginia. Growing up in "the star city of the south" had a huge impact on her outlook and her writing.”

To learn more about Ms. Banks visit her Amazon author page.

Stephanie Queen “A romantic at heart and a writer by nature, Stephanie Queen has the enthusiastic soul of a cheerleader. So of course she loves creating stories where the good guys always win. Although she's lost count of all the jobs she had before she settled on being a Novelist, her favorite was selling cookies as a Keebler Elf. She is a graduate of UConn (go Huskies!) and Harvard U and lives in New Hampshire with her family, her cat, Kitty, and her (real or imagined?) chauffeur, Myren.”

Learn more about Ms. Queen at her website or follow her on Facebook.

Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it's within the pages of a book.”

Learn more about Ms. Ayala at her website or follow her on Facebook.


In this second group of Love, Christmas novellas I am reviewing three new-to-me authors. I chose stories that sounded like they had a common theme, this time of someone who needed saving. Perhaps even from themselves.

We Need a Little Christmas by Leanne Banks:
Justin Dane Burgess, CEO of Frank Fashions and Home Goods, feels like everyone always wants something from him. He has built a profitable retail business that takes good care of its employees. While he makes healthy charitable donations, he has cut himself off from society as a whole. He doesn’t do relationships and because of Decembers past, he doesn’t do Christmas.

Lilly Johansen, orphaned at a young age, has learned to adopt family members from friends and neighbors. She spends her time helping others; her pet project is gathering winter coats for the needy. When she slips and falls on the ice one cold winter night, Justin swoops in as her reluctant rescuer.

Justin is fascinated by Lilly’s optimistic attitude and slowly learns he is the one who needs rescuing. The plot is slow but emotional as these two vastly different souls get to know each other and discover what is truly important. If you are feeling frazzled this holiday season We Need a Little Christmas is a heartwarming tale that may soothe your soul.

Let It Snow by Stephanie Queen

Dane Blaze is fighting a soul-wracking depression he can’t pull himself out of. It’s to the point where he thinks he deserves this misery. Shana, his business partner with benefits, can’t seem to pull him through this funk either. Alternating perspectives through point-of-view shifts gave credence to emotions and rounded out the characters well.

On Christmas Eve, Captain Colin Lynch, a friend and co-worker, shows up with a mysterious stranger in tow. Father Pedro is a friend of a friend, from South America, who says he has come to help Dane. Shana suddenly decides perhaps she and Dane need a break from each other and packs her bags to leave. As she is walking out the door, Father Pedro decides he should go with Shana.

Things get worrisome when a huge snowstorm moves into Martha’s Vineyard and the ferry crossing becomes hazardous because of a sudden squall. Dane abruptly senses ‘his girl’ is in danger and is spurred to find a way to reach her.

This precipitous turn of dangerous events is tension filled as communications become sketchy and neither the sea nor the storm are behaving normally. I was a freaking nervous wreck reading what I thought was going to be a sweet romance, but I couldn’t put the book down until I knew things were going to be okay. And I am here to tell you the author still tried to leave a question at the end. However, I want to think I know the answer to that question. I suggest saving Let It Snow for when you are in the mood for a romantic suspense story.

Deck the Hearts by Rachelle Ayala:

Holly Jolly is president and CEO of Holly’s Jolly Elves. She lives and breathes Christmas all year long. During the Christmas season, she is commissioned by the town council to guarantee Christmas Creek’s festive holiday atmosphere, which generates a good portion of the town’s income. Christmas Creek was built on the Redwood Coast of California by lumber barons in the late nineteenth century and used to be known as Gills Gulch. When Marney Gills, the doyenne of Christmas lore and local history, passes away, she left her entire estate to her great-nephew Gordon Gills, from Los Angeles. Gordon is a personal trainer to the stars; he never knew he had a Great Aunt Marney, and has no desire to move to Christmas Creek or have anything to do with Christmas. Gordon is a true Grinch who grew up with no family and loathes everything Christmas has become.

This is a charming story to read as Holly teaches Gordon about the heart of Christmas despite the glitter and glitz of all her decorations. Gordon is not pleased with himself when he finds he is attracted to that red-headed sprite of an elf. However, Holly’s joyfulness begins to win him over until a stress that weighs on them both becomes too big to ignore. They need a little Christmas magic and they need it now…Cue Donner, a mysterious old postman who drives a bright red Cadillac with fins and doesn’t seem to be able to find his way out of town. This novella is enjoyable, heartwarming, and a little steamy.

Deck the Hearts is book one of a new series, A Christmas Creek Romance, by Rachelle Ayala.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK


The stories in Love, Christmas are new and never before published. They are also classified as Clean and Wholesome stories.

Format/Typo Issues:
We Need a Little Christmas by Leanne Banks: I found a small number of proofing issues.

Let It Snow by Stephanie Queen: No significant proofing issues.

Deck the Hearts by Rachelle Ayala: No significant proofing issues.

Rating: We Need a Little Christmas by Leanne Banks: **** Four Stars

Rating: Let It Snow by Stephanie Queen: ***** Five Stars

Rating: Deck the Hearts by Rachelle Ayala: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 375-400,000 words for the full set. Each story is novella size, 20,000 words or slightly less.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: Players by Mike Markel

Genre: Police Procedural


The death of Lake Williams, a former football player at Central Montana State, in his squalid tent in a homeless camp looks to Seagate and Miner like a routine heroin overdose. Soon, however, they discover that someone hired a courier to deliver the uncut heroin, knowing that Lake would shoot up and die instantly. When a second body turns up, and then a third, the evidence points to the head coach and the other leaders of the football program, who appear to be covering up a secret that would destroy the program. When a man comes forward, claiming to have committed numerous felonies on behalf of the program over many years, the detectives don’t know whether he is the killer or merely a decoy in an elaborate misdirection play. In a heart-pounding final confrontation, Seagate and Miner confront the killer--and realize they have walked right into the trap.”


Mike Markel writes the Detectives Seagate and Miner Mystery series, which is set in the fictional small city of Rawlings, Montana, home of Central Montana State University. That university is somewhat like Boise State University, where Mike taught writing, but in Rawlings the weather is colder, the football team less successful, and the murder rate much, much higher.
Mike lives with his wife in Boise.”

For more, visit Mike's website.


Our partnership works because of our opposite styles. Ryan is calm, rational, and thoughtful. I’m … not.”

The character Karen Seagate may have more than her share of imperfections, but lack of self-awareness isn't one of them. In that quote she gets to the heart of why her fictional partnership with Ryan Miner makes for such good stories, too. This is the seventh book of the series and as I've reviewed each I've raved about the characters of Seagate and Miner as well as the story. Consider this another rave.

The fictional town of Rawlings, Montana where all the books take place is another piece of Markel's solid foundation for the series. Many of the stories involve happenings at the university in Rawlings and in this installment that is especially true. Along with the story of Seagate and Miner investigating a murder you might also find yourself considering college sports and the price athletes sometimes pay to participate.

Buy now from: Amazon US    Amazon UK


Adult language

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Reprise Review: Shadowcursed by Gelo Fleisher

Genre: Fantasy


Bolen is a thief, plying his trade under the spires of an ancient and sprawling city. Worried that he's growing too old, Bolen has lined up a risky job, just to prove that he can still pull one off.

Tonight, he's going to break into a nobleman's vault and help himself to its contents. What he doesn't know is that inside is the key to a secret as old as the city itself.

Kings have killed for it, demons have coveted it, priests have prayed for it, and in a few moments it will be in his hands. And when it is, the adventure of his life will begin.”


Gelo R. Fleisher is an author and game developer. He lives on the East Coast, with his wife and daughter.” This is his debut story and you can find out more about him at his blog.


This fantasy novella was a nice surprise. Mr. Fleisher has written an enthralling story full of descriptive prose that will pull you into the story so thoroughly you can practically smell the stench. He has also given us a bad guy to root for as we sit on the edge of our seats as the plot twists and turns.

The story is character driven as we follow Bolen down the streets and alleys as Fleisher paints us stark pictures of the corruptness throughout this ancient city and its ruling family. When Bolen gets his hands on a coveted ruby statue, which he steals from the safe inside the fortress walls, we know it is magical. The story behind it is fascinating in and of itself, the powers it wields may even be considered miraculous.

As a twist of fate, Bolen is then enlisted by a shadowy figure to steal this statue that he has already stolen and fenced. The story that unfolds is an original and captivating rollercoaster ride that will leave the reader fully satisfied. I think this is an Indie author to watch for in the future.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK


Added for Reprise Review: Shadowcursed was a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran October 5, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: Scented: a love story by RJ Crayton

Genre: Paranormal/Ghosts


When Bryan Harper was eight-years-old, his mother died tragically in a car wreck. He was chilled when he realized the sickening smell clinging to her beforehand was a sign of what was to come. Haunted by a "gift" that lets him know who is going to die next, Bryan, now sixteen, seeks solace in solitude.

Having narrowly escaped death as a young child, Lauraline Reese fears the reaper still searches for her. She's seeking to fit in and be normal in her new school, but can she when the storm that almost claimed her life continues to stalk her?

When Lauraline Reese walks into Bryan's life, he knows immediately she's different. She smells like no other living person he's ever encountered. She's got the scent of ashes to ashes and dust to dust. And he's drawn to her to discover why.

As the two grow close, Lauraline helps Bryan discover a vital message. As they decipher what to do next, they must each come to terms with their unique gifts as they race against death to set things right.”


RJ Crayton is the author of the Virus and the Life First series… Prior to becoming an author, Crayton was a journalist. She reported for several publications, including The Kansas City Star and Education Technology News. Crayton lives in Maryland with her husband and two children. When she's not writing, she enjoys eating cupcakes, walking, reading, sewing, or watching TV (she's partial to Star Trek, super hero flicks and gripping dramas).”

Ms. Crayon’s Life First was a nominee in the Speculative Fiction (excluding fantasy) category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards.

Ms. Crayton is also a contributing author at Indies Unlimited (a multi-author blog “celebrating independent authors”).

To learn more visit Ms. Crayton’s website or follow her on Facebook.
Indies Unlimited: 


This is a unique story about two teenagers, who are learning to come to grips with their own special gifts. Bryan Harper has a secret he has only shared with his father; he can smell impending death in the living. As a result he has chosen to live a life of solitude to keep the smell of death at bay, except for his best friend Ferraz. When Brian encounters Lauraline Reese, a new transfer student to Knightsdale High School, he discovers an extraordinary smell he has never smelled on a living person before. Curiosity and attraction drive Bryan to determine why Lauraline emits this smell.

Lauraline has a secret as well, one that scares the bejeezus out of her. The only person she thinks can help is her grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and whose lucid moments are fleeting.

Both Lauraline and Bryan are realistic and engaging. I found it easy to be sympathetic to both of them. I also enjoyed the fact that their talents end up complementing each other as they grow to understand and control the abilities they once despised. The twists and turns in the plot keep the story moving forward at a good pace. Relationships are also examined closely. Bryan and his father’s has always been distant, troubled, and complicated. Lauraline’s father is overly protective, which isn’t uncommon in any father/daughter relationship as they reach dating age. Because of a past family history Lauraline is afraid that if her father knew her secret he would have her committed.

I had pegged this book as a young adult or coming-of-age, however, when the author threw in a small number of F-bombs I figured I must be mistaken. Honestly, these didn’t even bother me or seem out of place as they express extreme frustration in the situation. What did bother me was the repetition. This is an element that also gave me the feeling that this story was written for a younger audience, to stress the points being repeated. Honestly, I don’t need to be told something more than two times and only if it is extremely important.

Bottom line; this is a provocative and enchanting tale dealing with many complicated elements which were brought to a satisfying ending. However, certain components were left open ended for the story to continue. I would like to see that happen.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK


There are three F-bombs.

Format/Typo Issues:

Small number of proofing issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words.