Review of ‘The Defendants’

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If you’re a fan of the courtroom drama of legal thrillers, you’ll love The Defendants by lawyer turned thriller writer John Ellsworth.

Thaddeus Murfee, a rookie lawyer with 18 months of trial experience, runs a one-man firm in the little Illinois town of Orbit. When a local woman, Ermeline Ransom, claims that she has been molested by a local businessman, Victor Harrow, she asks Thad to represent her in a civil suit. But, when Harrow turns up dead, and Ermeline’s fingerprints are on the weapon, Thad finds himself having to defend her against a possible death penalty.

Despite a few typos here and there, this is legal drama at its best. Ellsworth pens the courtroom scenes with a degree of authenticity and veracity that just feels real. Moreover, he totally nails the small town scene, and the often quirky characters that inhabit small-town middle America. In addition, he shows the seamy side of big city politics and corruption.

The surprise ending will leave you gasping – no joke. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Fairchild’

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Sophy Prescott, living with her mother in a small English village, is the village bastard. When her mother dies, her ‘father,’ Lord William Rushford of Fairchild, has her relocated to his home in Cordell Hall, where he finds it hard to relate to her as a daughter.

Fairchild by Jaima Fixsen tells Sophy’s story as she struggles to find love and a place to belong, in a society that puts a premium on pedigree rather than true character.

The author does an excellent job of describing English society of the era, and the characters of all classes that inhabited it. While in some respects a romance, Fairchild is also a bit of historical fiction, with its descriptions of English society. Fixsen has created, in Sophy, a character the reader can easily identify with and root for.. I give it four stars.

7 Tools I Use to Organize My Stories

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Originally posted on WordDreams...:

Efriend Sacha Black interviewed author Jillian Davis and asked about the tools she used to build her story. Sacha wasn’t asking whether she used a computer or pen-and-paper, rather what literary tools-such as character profiles and timelines. I found myself nodding my head over every one Jillian mentioned.

But I wonder how many people use the sort of tools I do. When you Google pictures of writers, you often get something like this:

writer

…or this:

writer

I’m more this:

writing

Let me share my writer’s tools and tell me if you do the same:

Pre-draft

I pre-draft in a spreadsheet. It’s about a dozen columns and hundreds of rows. I often rearrange the rows as a plot point changes and add rows to enhance detail. When I’m done with this pre-draft, I convert the spreadsheet to text and start the editing process.

Here’s what it looks like:

pre-draft a novel

Character profiles

I fill out an extensive…

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Review of ‘Dark Beast’

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Black Beast is the first book in R.S. Guthrie’s Clan Macaulay series, and it clearly demonstrates his skill as a thriller writer. A veritable roller coaster of thrills and chills, with occasional pit stops in the mind and heart of the central character, a common man with an uncommon purpose.

Bobby Macaulay is a decorated Denver Police Detective who lost a leg in the line of duty, but is still one of the DPD’s sharpest detectives. When he’s assigned, though, to investigate a string of grisly murders, he has to face his tragic past—and his family legacy, a legacy of which he was unaware.

When Mac learns the truth of his past, he also learns that good and evil are not just abstract constructs, but a reality—a reality with which he must deal, or die.

Like crack cocaine, one shot of this will hook you for life. There are perhaps too many typos, and Guthrie plays a bit fast and loose with history and culture, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless. I found myself eventually skipping over the glitches and ignoring the historical errors in order to stay in the story. This is not as good as his Sheriff James Pruett mystery series, but given time, I think they’ll climb up beside them.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. I give it three stars because of the typos and stuff, but deep down in my heart, it’s a closet four star book.

Stomp writer’s block. Let loose!

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Charles Ray:

Music can jump start your muse – according to this great post.

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

I’m working on a novel. I’d always romanticized this type of writing. I imagined that words would flow from my head onto the page with the greatest of ease. Hey, I create other types of work every day. I have a solid, diligent writing practice. So, how hard could writing 80,000 to 110,000 words be? It turns out that, like running a marathon, writing a novel can be exhausting, and worse: I can hit the wall. I can run out of ideas and inspiration, and sometimes get sick of the sound of my own inner voice. I have a deadline to hit with this book, which only makes the stress worse, and mires me even further.

Desperate times called for desperate measures. And thus, my technique to shake off my writer’s block was born.

It may sound goofy, but it’s working like a charm!

Where words fail, music speaks.
–Hans Christian Andersen

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Review of ‘Code Breakers: Alpha’

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In a post-apocalyptic world, what’s left of humanity lives in a single domed city run by the shadowy Family. Periodically, the population is culled through the death lottery. All is running smoothly until Jerry Cardle, the man in charge of the lottery finds his name on the list. He discovers that a malevolent artificial intelligence has invaded the city’s systems, which could spell doom for everyone.

With seven days left to live, Cardle must get to the bottom of whatever is going on, but he has to go entirely off the grid to do it.

Code Breakers: Alpha by Colin F. Barnes is a well-written science fiction story of a dystopian future, complete with all the techie bells and whistles one might expect from the genre. In addition, the author does a good job of creating the characters who might inhabit such a dismal future.

Great reading. I give it four of five stars.

Review of ‘Riders of the Purple Sage’

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Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey was originally published in 1912, and is traditionally considered the first true western, a book that shaped the genre for generations to follow.

It is the story of Lassiter, an enigmatic gunslinger from Texas who is hated and feared by the Mormon settlers in northern Utah. Lassiter’s path crosses with Jane Witherspoon, a single Mormon woman, who has defied the edict of the church that she marry the elder in her town.

When Lassiter arrives, a hidden grave on Jane’s property leads him to a quest that he’s been on for a long time—to determine the fate of his sister who had married a charismatic Mormon and fled her home in Texas.

Grey was a master wordsmith who could paint the most vivid pictures imaginable of the Old West and the people who populated it. While some of the narrative and dialogue shows the prejudices against Mormons that existed at the time Grey first wrote the story, it has a sense of veracity and credibility despite its lack of political correctness in modern times.

For fans of the genre, though, this is a book that is required reading, for it helps put all that followed it into the proper perspective.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

A great Western, but more than the sage is purple. Zane, like many of his generation, was given to purple prose, which is really not my cup of tea, so I only give it four stars.

Review of ‘Love Bites’

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I’ve been an Adrienne Barbeau fan ever since I saw her as the daughter in the TV show Maude. I was amazed, though, to discover that she’s as good as a writer as she is on screen.

Love Bites, the second in her Vampyres of Hollywood series, is a funny, scary, tense thriller that demonstrates that Barbeau is more than just a pretty face. Beverly Hills homicide detective Peter King met writer/producer/star Ovsanna Moore during the investigation of a string of brutal murders dubbed the Cinema Slayer case. During the case of that investigation in which they vanquish the killer, Peter learns that Ovsanna is a 400-year-old vampire named Ovsanna Hovannes Garabedian, and is the top vampire in Tinsel Town. Things get a bit complicated, however, when they develop a more than casual interest in each other.

Now, someone wants Osvanna dead, and that someone is not human. Peter quite literally has his hands full as he juggles his feelings for Osvanna, the need to keep the relationship a secret from his boss (since, Osvanna is still a suspect in the Cinema Slayer case because the killer was a vampire, and Peter can’t tell his boss that they’ve already killed her), the jealousy of Osvanna’s personal assistant and lover, Maral, and the challenge of staying getting a jump on a pack of inhuman (meaning non-human) killers before the body count becomes unmanageable.

Barbeau nails the Hollywood scene as only an insider could, but she does it with a skill with words that few performers, accustomed to speaking words written by others, possess. The wittiness is as biting as a vampire’s fangs, and the action’s nonstop.

Some Amazon readers didn’t like the book because it postulated that a lot of old movie stars, like Theda Bara and Orson Wells, were vampyres, and it took swipes at the Republican Party. For me, these just added to the humor of the book, which was extremely well written. I give it five stars, and look forward to a sequel, because Peter and Osvanna are my idea of modern-day Hollywood’s Nick and Nora Charles. So there!

Review of ‘Dark Legion’

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Prince Saul Baz Sharmin, an Ubrain, has been a slave assigned duties as an apprentice executioner for a decade, until he meets Marcus, a Prylean, leader of a group of revolutionaries against the evil empire of King Solas. When Saul kills his master, the chief executioner Angus, and he and Marcus escape, instead of freedom, they find their troubles only beginning.

In the port town of Sagemont, in search of the Crown of Ubrain that will help him restore his brother to the throne and free his people from Solas’ clutches, Saul finds himself alternating between using the healing skills from his former life as a physician and having to apply his executioner’s talents on more than one occasion. To further complicate his life, he gets caught up with an enigmatic and angry young magician and ensnared by the demi-god, Malakai, who has his own agenda.

As complication piles atop complication, Saul finds himself fighting as much just to stay alive as to free his people.

I received a free copy of Dark Legion, book one in the Blood of Blood series by Paul Kleynhans, in exchange for my review.

The author masterfully keeps the action moving at an almost breakneck pace, while interspersing bits of rip-roaring humor. While the use of modern slang and profanity in the book is a bit strange at first, as you get to know the characters, it seems to be . . . well, in character. This left me looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Vane-Martin Conundrum’

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Frederick Vane and Andrew Martin, long-time colleagues, are experts at making predictions based on events and trends. When the British government is faced with a crisis in the Middle East, and criminal activity at home, that is hard to get a handle on, the two are brought in to develop predictions to allow a reasoned government response. The Islamic State (IS) is mounting a concentrated bombing campaign in the UK, and the British Prime Minister (PM) is incapable of handling the situation.

Police DCI Isaac Cook, faced with a series of random bombings, is led to the conclusion that the PM is the ultimate target, and Vane and Martin come to the same conclusion. While investigating the bombings, Cook develops a relationship with the ambitious deputy PM. Now, the three men, along with the deputy PM face a moral and ethical challenge, do they allow the planned assassination of the PM to happen, or do they try to stop it. Their futures as well as the future security of the nation and the world rides on the decision they make.

The Vane-Martin Conundrum by Phillip Strang is a tense thriller, with all the elements that make it a potential blockbuster film: romance, politics, terror, and religion, all combined in a story that will grab you by the short hairs and not let go until the end. An in-depth analysis of the possible outcome when an international terrorist organization’s goals happen to coincide with the political desires of certain individuals within the target country. This is a down and dirty thriller that you shouldn’t miss!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review, and I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Scythe’

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The mobs haven’t learned their lesson. They’ve tried many times to kill Darwin Kostas. But now, the Russian Mafia wants to take over Toronto, but in order to do so they must appease the Italian and Chinese mobs by offering them Darwin’s head on a platter. They start it by kidnapping his wife, Rosina. What a mistake that turns out to be. Now, the only Darwin can get the mob off his back is to kill them all.

The Scythe, the third and final book in the Mafia Trilogy by Jonas Saul, has Darwin pitted against his most ruthless foe yet, the Russian mob, for whom murder is like a walk in the park. He also has to try and stay one step ahead of the law, often corrupt and in the mob’s pockets.

The language is a bit slangy and cliché-ridden, but the action scenes make it easy to overlook this. The author knows the terrain and describes it well. Some of the action scenes seem incredible, but the essence of good fiction is the author’s ability to make a reader suspend disbelief for a brief period. Saul does that, and does it well.

I give him three and a half stars for sheer chutzpah!

Review of ‘Lonely Reader Looking for Love Story: Cupid’s Daughter #1’

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On the surface, Emma Valentine looks like your ordinary single girl living in Manhattan and working as a barista in a coffee shop. In reality, though, she’s Cupid’s daughter—yes, the real Cupid, master of True Love. In Lonely Reader Looking for Love Story (Cupid’s Daughter #1) by Jason Krumbine, Emma has to get Ross Richards and Sally Fields to realize that they are fated to be together.

Emma’s challenge, though, is that the two are the ultimate nerds, with no social skills to speak of, and she is without a plan for bringing them together—at least, not without breaking the rules her dad’s drummed into her.

You’ll laugh so hard when you read this, you’ll sputter. You might even choke. Yes, it’s just that good. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Loose Ends’

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Mary O’Reilly was a Chicago cop until she was shot. She died, and was brought back to life, and now she can see and talk to ghosts. She becomes a PI in the small town of Freeport, Illinois—because there are just too many ghosts to deal with in a city the size of Chicago.

When the wife of a U.S. Senator hires her to look into the case of one of her husband’s aides, who died several years earlier, whose ghost is now appearing near the scene, Mary finds herself on the trail of a serial killer who was also responsible for the deaths of several young girls around the same time. The problem is, though, the killer is still around, and now, Mary is his target.

Loose Ends is the debut novel in the Mary O’Reilly paranormal mystery series by Terri Reid.

Reid does a fairly good job of sucking you in and almost making you believe that ghosts could be real. There’s also a good dollop of humor, with Mary coming across as a ghost-busting Kinsey Milhone. There were a few too many typos that should have been caught in the copy editing process, but it was still a fun book to read. Look out Kinsey Milhone, Mary O’Reilly is on your tail, and she’s got a lot of spiritual help!

While I’d love to give this top rating, because of the editing issues, I can only give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook’

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Donna Stone’s husband was killed on the day her third child was born. In order to avenge his death, she leads a double life – housewife by day, and at other times, a deadly assassin.

The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook by Josie Brown follows Josie as she closes in on the shadowy organization she believes is responsible for her husband’s death. Along the way, she has to deal with a new partner, the misogynistic Jack, who seeks to replace her late husband, Carl. Mixed in with the somewhat graphic sex scenes and totally graphic acts of violence, are some madcap moments of classic slapstick humor, and a few handy household hints. In other words, a book that never fails to surprise you, even when it fails to live up to what you expect it to be. This book is not for everyone. There are those who will be put off by the sex scenes, or by what appears to be a ham-handed way of laying down clues. Even with all that, though, the ending—which is rather long and involved—will surprise anyone who hangs on until the end of the book

In short, it’s camp, it’s graphic, and in many cases predictable—but, I enjoyed it. I’m giving it four stars!

Review of ‘Georgios: Hidden Heritage’

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Young Georgios has always been told that he was destined for greatness. His father is a Roman legionnaire, and his Greek grandparents are wealthy merchants. He lives an idyllic life, until one day, after his father has departed after one of his infrequent and all-too-short visits, Georgios determines to follow him. The 13-year-old embarks on an epic journey that spans a good part of the world as it’s known at that time. During the journey, Georgios grows into manhood, but more importantly, discovers who he really is.

Georgios: Hidden Heritage, by A. K. Fraley is one of the best examples of historical fiction I’ve read in a while. Through fictional characters, Fraley introduces historical figures and events in a way that is totally credible, while at the same time entertaining.

Her fictional characters, in fact, are sometimes even more real than those who actually existed. She makes us feel what they feel and see what they see. This is a great example of history come alive.

I give Fraley four stars for this book.

Review of ‘Corliss and Other Award Winning Stories’

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Corliss and Other Award Winning Stories is a collection of short stories by Heather Haven. This collection of murder, mystery and suspense has the common thread of humanness throughout, from the title story of Corliss, a young woman who must go to great lengths to protect her future, to Jemma, a bulldog who is more human than most of the humans in the stories in this outstanding collection.

Haven writes with a steady and accomplished hand, packing a ton of suspense into a very tight space. The results of this skill are an inevitable explosion at the end of each story. This is short story writing at its best. You’ll want to re-read all of these stories many, many times.

Five of five stars.

Review of ‘The Fast Metabolism Diet: by Haylie Pomroy with Eve Adamson | A Review: Eat More Food & Lose More Weight ‘

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The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy with Eve Adamson-A Review by Eureka Books is a fairly comprehensive review of a diet/exercise book by a celebrity diet trainer and a professional writer.

This review makes an effort to go behind the hype of Adamson’s book, extracting the key things a reader should take away from it: that one should avoid and work to reduce stress, and weight loss and stress reduction should be combined in order to be effective. Another takeaway, that’s not labeled as such, is that the book is primarily a promotion for Adamson’s products and services, and that it doesn’t really tell the reader much that hasn’t already been said in other places.

The review does acknowledge that The Fast Metabolism Diet is easy to read, but a really effective diet book should be more than that.

This handy little guide peels away the glitter and tells it like it is. An unauthorized review, it is not promotional literature. It enables the reader to get a relatively unbiased opinion on a book before buying it. Four Stars.

Review of ‘Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari: Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review’

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Sapiens: by Yuval Noah Harari – Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review: A Brief History of Mankind by Eureka Books digs into Harari’s work on the evolution of Homo sapiens from the middle of the food chain to the dominant species on Earth.

This handy little guide gives the key lessons to be learned from Harari’s book, an analysis of his arguments, and a review of the content and style. There is little argument against the validity of Harari’s contention that it was a revolution in cognitive ability, the agricultural revolution, the creation of money, laws, and religion, and the rise of empires that gave H. sapiens the jump, not just over the so-called lesser animals, but also over other hominids, such as the larger Neanderthal.

While Harare is described in the review as somewhat ‘preachy,’ and not all of his theories are fully supported by science, he’s given credit for summarizing human development in a manner that a lay reader can easily digest and understand.

This review makes Harari’s book sound like a pretty thick treatise, but one well worth reading for anyone who is interested in how we got to where we are now—and where we might be headed if we’re not careful.

These reviews are kind of like CliffNotes, but they don’t guide you to answers to test questions or give you hints for papers. They dig into a book, and try to give you some sense of its worth. That they’re unauthorized makes them all the more credible, since you can be relatively assured they’re not just promotional tools. I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Apollo Collection – Volume 1: How American Won the Race to the Moon’

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I’ve been a fan of Philip Gibson’s Hashtag History series ever since I read the first one. His series on the US-Soviet space race, and NASA’s journey to the Moon are particularly good. In The Apollo Collection – Volume 1: How America Won the Race to the Moon, Gibson has combined everything about the Apollo 8 through 11 missions into one collection, supplemented with tons of new research.

When John F. Kennedy announced the goal of a man on the Moon on May 25, 1961, the US manned space program was significantly behind the USSR. In this collection that details all of the NASA missions up to and including the eventual landing on the lunar surface, using social media (Twitter) postings, Gibson takes us inside for a view of the program that wasn’t really even available to those of us who were around at the time. Based on recollections, transcripts, news reports, and complete with photos and graphics, the program is brought back to life.

The Hashtag History series is an astounding way to teach history. Not just a dry recital of dates, events, names, and places, it uses the words of people who were involved in events, to bring those events back to life. Once you’ve read on, you’ll be hooked for life. Another four star offering.

Review of ‘Relentless’

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“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”  Sara Grey is a girl with a secret. Haunted by the murder of her father, and determined to find his killer, she takes risks that the ordinary 17-yeaar-old would shrink from. For instance, she goes out on a limb to help a Boggie couple—Boggies being beings that are not exactly human—with the help of a troll named Remy. That’s right, Sara consorts with nonhuman creatures from what most would think was a fantasy world.

When she becomes the target of a vengeful vampire, she discovers that her friends are more than she thought, and even more, that, along with her strange ‘healing’ gift, she has other secrets that even she had not been aware of.

Karen Lynch’s Relentless is a paranormal mystery, thriller, romance—well, it’s kind of hard to really pigeonhole, other than, it’s a really entertaining book. Once you start reading it, I promise you, you won’t put it down until you’re done.

Four of five stars to Lynch for this one.