Authors Beware of deals that seem too good to be true – they are just that!

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There’s been a number of articles on various sites about publishers who hook unwary authors into contracts that give nothing in return. Many indie authors have fallen into this trap—I include myself, unfortunately, in that number.

 

When I was working on my first book length manuscript, a book on leadership that I was encouraged to write by a young man who worked for me as my speech writer when I was U.S. ambassador to Cambodia (2002-2005). After slaving over the manuscript for nearly three years, I went searching for a publisher.

 

I encountered an ad from PublishAmerica, a Maryland-based small imprint that, unlike the many vanity publishers advertising at the time, touted the fact that they PAID authors for their work instead of asking for payment. Knowing, or at least suspecting, that the book I’d written would have limited appeal, it didn’t sound like a bad deal, so I submitted it.

 

A few weeks later I received an email advising me that my book was accepted for publication. Attached to the email was a contract. Naïve in the ways of publishing, I unwisely didn’t have that contract read by a lawyer before signing it. From what I’d read, it didn’t seem to bad – the advance was paltry (a mere $1.00), and I was locked into an 8-year commitment. But, the book would be published, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

 

It was published, but from that point on, it was a nightmare. The cover was somewhat amateurish—even then, just learning the art of designing book covers, I could’ve done a better job. The price was a bit high, I thought, but again, I was new to all this and didn’t know any better. I was encouraged to buy copies for myself at a measly discount from the inflated cover price. The royalties were also small; something like 8% of the cover price (compare that to the 75% you can get publishing it yourself through the Kindle Direct Program, or even the rather generous percentage you get when you publish a paperback through CreateSpace). They did, at least, list it on all the major book-seller sites; Amazon, etc.

 

Surprisingly, there were a few early sales, and I even got it included in a couple of libraries (The U.S. State Department Library, and my college library, to name two). A few people I met at conferences, who had read it, also informed me that they’d purchased copies to use in their management training programs. Despite this, my royalty checks over the past eight-plus years have yet to exceed $50. Looking back, when I compare this to the $100 per month I get through KDP, and an average of $30 per month through CreateSpace and other sales of paperbacks, I can see that what seemed at the time to be ‘too good to be true,’ in fact was just that.

 

The eight years in the contract are up now, and you would assume, as implied in the contract, my book rights belong to me. Guess again.

 

PublishAmerica changed its name to AmericaStar, in an effort, I believe, to attract foreign indie authors, but its practices remain the same. It does nothing to promote the books it accepts, beyond importuning the author regularly to buy copies, and lately it has done something that seals its fate as far as I’m concerned.

 

Over the past 60 days, I’ve been getting emails from AmericaStar nee PublishAmerica, informing me that the company is getting out of the publishing business and going full time to book promotion. In doing so, it plans to sell the rights to the books it holds to another ‘Indie’ publisher, but I can get them assigned to me for a modest fee of $199—it said in the initial emails that this was to cover the cost of removing it from selling platforms, etc.

 

At first, I couldn’t believe they would have the gall to do something like this, so I just ignored the first four or five emails. Then, they said, if I couldn’t afford $199, for a few days I could get my rights back for a mere $149. Again, I ignored them. A week later, another email, informing me that I had only two days to BUY my rights back, and they were doing me a big favor by reducing the cost to $99.  Thoroughly steamed by now, I just filed the emails away and went on to other projects.

 

The latest are . . . funny, pathetic, I’m not sure how to characterize them. I now have 24 hours to obtain the rights to my own work for $79. If I fail to do this, someone else (as yet unknown) will own the rights to my book, and they can’t promise what the buyer will do with these rights.

 

Thankfully, I’ve self-published scores of books since my first mistake, and while I’m not on any best-seller lists, and not getting rich from it, I’m enjoying fairly regular sales, and getting some pretty solid reviews. As for buying the rights back to my own work—I’m in wait-and-see mode. If the last email is correct, I will probably be hearing from the mysterious new publisher someday soon with a request that I buy my book, or something equally ridiculous.

 

I’ve written that book off as a lost cause, and a lesson learned. Never were the words caveat emptor more appropriate.

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Review of ‘Succubus

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An international thriller works when real events are seamlessly woven into the fictional narrative. In Succubus, former diplomatic security service agent Regis P. Sheehan does that.

Michael Medved, code name ‘Bear’, is tasked by the Org to exfiltrate a nuclear scientist who wants to defect out of North Korea. He teams up with a mixed force of South Korean agents and other specialists from the Org for what is an almost impossible task. All of this takes place in the tense post-9/11 atmosphere and the invasion of Iraq which resulted in the toppling and subsequent execution of Saddam Hussein, the machinations of North Korean diplomats in the smuggling of ‘super notes,’ exquisitely crafted counterfeit US one-hundred-dollar notes, and the cumbersome Washington bureaucracy.

Swiftly moving back and forth in time, and crossing two oceans, the story follows the team and its supporters as the dangerous mission unfolds.

A chilling story that reads like it was ripped from the day’s headlines, it is, in short, the kind of page-turner that international thriller fans will love. I received a complimentary copy of this book, and I give it four stars for a darned good first novel.

Review of ‘Twenty-One Steps of Courage’

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Rod Strong enlisted in the army with the objective of becoming a member of the Old Guard Sentinels, the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. With war raging in the Middle East, though, he’s required to do his deployment. An injury makes it seemingly impossible for him to fulfill his dream, but Rod is determined to live up to his surname.

Twenty-One Steps of Courage by Sarah Bates is the story of courage and determination that follows Rod through war, recovery, and the intensely hard work of trying to achieve an impossible dream. The author has done a fairly good job of showing aspects of a soldier’s life that seldom make it into popular media, or even the mass media.

A well-written story that will stay with you long after you stop reading. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Death at Coombe Farm’

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The view was idyllic, but with a body that’s been trampled by horses, DI Keith Tremayne is not appreciating it. There’s more in the village of Coombe than meets the eye, and he’s determined to get to the bottom of it. Death at Coombe Farm by Phillip Strang is another offering in the DI Tremayne series that will keep you thrilled from the very first page. The author has an amazing ability to pack tons of procedural details and background information into the story in a way that’s interesting rather than boring, and keeps the reader guessing until Tremayne eventually stumbles—plods—into the truth.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Jack Reacher Series: Best Reading Order’

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Some people like to read the end of a book before the beginning, and some people absolutely hate reading series books out of order. Lee Child, who writes the Best Reading Order series, writes for the latter. In his book Jack Reacher Series: Best Reading Order, he lists all the Reacher series books up to the 2017 publication date, with a synopsis and commentary.

You really don’t need this. If you’re not a read from the top type, you won’t care, and if you already are, well, you don’t need to be told. But, at 99 cents, what have you got to lose? If you haven’t read the books, this is a good way to get a sneak look at the ones you’ve yet to read.

Not a total waste. I give it four stars. It was technically well done, and I did find a nugget or two of useful information. I received a free copy of this book.

Review of ‘Dark Return’

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Having just completed a rescue mission for Stop Human Enslavement Now (SHEN), former assassin, Leine Basso, is asked to check up on a case of children missing from a refugee camp. On what she thinks will be a routine mission, she meets a street waif who has witnessed a murder and is being pursued by the killers and decides to help the young girl get to safety. The routine check at the camp turns into anything but, and Leine and her new charge find themselves on the run from a shadowy figure running a human trafficking ring with a deadly mission. They make a big mistake when they make a try for Leine—now, it’s her or them, and she has every intention of surviving.

Dark Return by D V Berkom is without doubt, the best Leine Basso thriller to date. Like its predecessors, it’s chocked full of blood-chilling action, and it skillfully merges two of the world’s greatest evils, human trafficking and terrorism, in a tale that will grab you by the short hairs and not let go.

Basso at her baddest—don’t miss it. I received a complimentary copy of this book.

I give this one a solid, resounding five stars.

Review of ‘Countering Hate’

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As humans, we’re all born the same, yet some people grow up to lead peaceful, productive lives, while others turn to destructive, often murderous pursuits. The question: why and how does this happen?

In Countering Hate, Bob Pearson and Haroon K. Ullah look at how people learn to hate and offer some prescriptions on countering this development. They show how, through silence and apathy, society contributes to this process of looking at other people negatively through the lenses of gender, race, or religion, a process that develops during the formative years up to the age of about 25, and how the use of soft-power tools by governments rather than reliance on military responses is the best approach to dealing with the phenomenon.

Rather than doing what many people do, which is, wonder briefly why they hate us, and then turning back to the local sports broadcast, the authors suggest that every citizen, but, most importantly, government officials, must take a proactive approach to countering hate and extremism.

If you’re a government official, this is a must-read. Heck, if you’re just a common citizen who wants to be better equipped to understand and deal with these issues in your own community, it’s also a must-read.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Airships, Crypts & Chocolate Chips’

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Things have gotten both better and worse for Imogen. Her bakery is thriving and she can now openly acknowledge her relationship with Prince Henry. On the negative side, though, she must spend time with his awful family. Just when she thinks things could get no worse, her wayward brother, Horace, a member of the Badlands Army, approaches her and her colleagues with an offer they can’t refuse—because he uses threats—break some prisoners out of the impenetrable prison of the Water Kingdom.

Airships, Crypts & Chocolate Chips by Erin Johnson is book five in a series that I’ve come to love. The author takes us on a madcap journey as Imogen and her friends take on an impossible mission, one that will change the future of Imogen and the magical kingdom that she has come to call home forever.

While this can be read as a stand-alone story, it would be far more interesting if you went back and started reading with book one—just a suggestion, but you’ll thank me for it if you do. Nonstop action, suspense, and double-dealing in a story that will have you chuckling and shivering by turns.

I received a free review copy of this book. Another five-star offering from an outstanding author.

Review of ‘Peaceful Night Poetry’

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Do your kids have trouble falling asleep? You could try giving them a glass of warm milk before bedtime, or, even better, you could read some of the fantastic poems in Piaras O Cionnaoith’s Peaceful Night Poetry. A brief, but fascinating, little book of poems and excellent artwork, it will not only help your little one fall asleep peacefully, but it’s a good way to stimulate young minds and instill a love of reading and poetry. As a bonus, along with the poems and art, the author provides ten useful tips for a good night’s sleep. This is truly a great book for ages 3 to 103, that everyone will enjoy.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Seattle Reign’

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Retired police detective turned private eye, Pat Ruger, is at a crossroads. He’s still getting over the murder of his fiancée, adjusting to his new girlfriend, and wondering what he’ll do with the rest of his life. When a local poet, a friend of his new flame, is murdered, she asks him to look into it. Like a firehouse dog at the sound of the alarm, he jumps to it. From Denver to Seattle, he finds more than the change in weather to be a bother, though, when he stumbles upon a North Korean plot to steal American art, and his protégé, Jake, is kidnapped by the art thieves.

Seattle Reign by Jack Huber is book number five in the Pat Ruger series, and, unfortunately for those of us who have come to love the slightly over-the-hill detective, reads like it’ll be the last. Non-stop action as Pat goes from dodging murderous North Koreans to saving a group of young girls from being sex-trafficked to rescuing Jake. Shorter than the previous books, it is nonetheless a good read, that will leave you satisfied that all is right with the world—except for the fact that it seems that Pat is getting out of the PI business. Oh, what will Pat Ruger fans do?

I received a free copy of this book, and give it four stars—mainly because there doesn’t appear to be a sequel in the works.

Review of ‘700 Jokes, Brainteasers, Tongue Twisters, Knock Knock Jokes For Kids’

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Do you need an ab workout, but don’t want to do a lot of crunches and get all sweaty? You might try laughing. This little book, which takes about an hour to read if you take it slow—and, I recommend raking it slow—will give your abs a great workout. Although the title says that it’s for kids, an old graybeard like me will still find it amusing enough to get a good ab tightening. In fact, I’m not sure that everything in this book is really appropriate doe kids, not the younger ones anyway. Do they really need to know that an intergluteal cleft is a butt crack? Maybe I’m a bit of a prude due to my age, but this is not a factoid I’m likely to share with my grandchildren. This is a truly funny book, though, and the brainteasers will exercise your mind as well as your body.

Even the author’s name, Justin Jelly, is funny.

A nice addition to your book list; it’s just too bad it’s not also in paperback. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Three Strikes, You’re Dead’

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At a rustic resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, PI Eddie Shoes is looking forward to enjoying a weekend getaway with her mother, Chava. Out for jog, she runs across an injured man. Then a forest fire starts, and the man dies before she can get him to safety, and she comes very close to being consumed by the fire herself. Before he died, though, he asked her to find his ‘abducted’ daughter. What is Eddie to do? In order to honor the dying man’s request, she has to defy local law enforcement, and work with her father, a mob ‘clean-up’ man. But, that’s Eddie, she always keeps a promise, even if it kills her.

Three Strikes, You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell is an exciting read. Eddie’s race against the all-consuming flames was so deftly written I could feel the heat, and boy, does this author know how to throw curve balls in the clue department. There was no cheating, though, because the real culprits were introduced early. It’s just that she planted enough false, but credible, clues to keep you looking in the wrong direction.

As I said, it’s an exciting and fun read (well, I didn’t say fun, at first, but it was). Don’t miss this one. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four and a half stars.

Strangely, for the second time, Amazon.com is rejecting reviews of a book, with the notice that there was strange reviewing behavior. I wonder if this has to do with the publisher or the author. I’d appreciate hearing from any readers who’ve had similar experiences.

Review of ‘Factor Man’

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When I review a book, I usually do one of two things; if I’m not captivated by the first chapter I stop reading and give it, at best a tepid review or I don’t review it at all, or I skim through the rest, and give it my best shot at an honest review. With Matt Ginsberg’s Factor Man, though, my technique was turned on its ear. I was thoroughly hooked on the book from the first few paragraphs but found that skimming was not an option. I had to read it slowly and carefully, absorbing every word, lest I miss some crucial piece of information. For the first time since I started reviewing books regularly (again, after a long hiatus) I found myself reading every word.

The cast of characters in this book is a long one, and each character is given full play. The reader is not only shown their actions and words, but their motivations, desires, and fears. From William Burkett, a savvy tech journalist who introduces Factor Man (FM) to the world; the Chinese spy, Janet Liu, who wants to destroy FM in order to save h er beloved country; as well as an eclectic assortment of characters, major and minor. But, the most intriguing character, the one from whom the title is derived, is FM himself. A scientist with a strong sense of integrity, caught up in a complex politically motivated world, his only wish is to do the right thing, and survive the experience.

This book has it all—in spades! A hero who has the world arrayed against him, he has to learn spy tradecraft, while preparing the world for his discovery of ‘God’s algorithm’, a code that will make obsolete all efforts at keeping electronic files secret. Can he survive long enough to attend his ‘coming-out party’, or will his secret die with him? If you want to know the answer to that question, I strongly recommend that you get a copy of this book and do what I did—read it carefully. It will change your views on Internet privacy and government’s concern for the welfare of its citizens in fundamental ways.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it a resounding five stars!

Review of ‘One Shot’

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Jack Shot is a young man without a care in the world. He has a job as a bartender, lives in one room above the bar, and his biggest challenge is whether or not to let his beautiful co-worker know that he has the hots for her. Then, his life takes a left turn and is never the same. A poem he wrote for his co-worker has changed into an enigmatic riddle. When the riddle later is shown to correspond to real life events, Jack finds that he’s somehow been tapped to be made privy to future events, which he must stop, or people will die. As the mystery deepens, he finds that he must confront demons of his past to stop the most horrific event, and he only gets one shot at it.

One Shot by Brian Gates is, in a word, entertaining and amusing—no, wait, that’s three words, or two if you ignore the ‘and.’ Confused? This story will do that to you. Funny and frightening in turn, it’ll keep your interest right up to the last word of the last page (actually, the period, which is the last thing in the book). Gates knows how to pique your interest and keep you guessing—and reading.

Received a free copy of this book. Loved it.

For some strange reason, I was unable to post a review on Amazon.com–something about possible strange review behavior. Not sure what’s happening, but hope it won’t affect availability of what I found to be a thoroughly entertaining read.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Puzzle of Death’

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On the eve of the untimely demise of an unpleasant, puzzle-loving scientist, envelopes containing puzzle pieces, and a challenge to locate a missing chemical formula and ten million dollars he’s taken from his bank and hidden somewhere are sent to a number of people. But, then, the letter recipients begin to turn up dead, killed by an unknown assailant, or assailants. One of the recipients is Jake Wade, a PI with a checkered record and a propensity to hit back at anyone threatening him.

The action starts with a bang, literally, as a bullying football player is dispatched, and just keeps getting louder and bloodier with each turn of the page, and throughout, Wade is right in the thick of things, trying to find the missing loot, stay one step ahead of whoever is trying to kill him, and investigating the killings, including the one he’s responsible for.

Sound confusing? It is, but in a nice way. Puzzle of Death by Donahue B. Silvis is an action story with so many twists, turns, red herrings, and counterplots, you almost need to keep a chart to keep from losing your place. An anti-hero main character with almost as many flaws as the bad guys—and gals—he’s chasing, that you’ll nonetheless cheer for. A tantalizing story, marred only by the author’s tendency in places to mix past and present tense in the same sentence—I can forgive him for that, I suppose, but hope he’ll take it to heart and not do it in future offerings.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book. I found it a bit choppy in places; not unusual for a first novel, and not a fatal flaw. I give it three and a half stars for effort.

Readers of this blog who would like to enter a raffle for a chance at winning a free copy of the book are invited to go to:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e23ee71d1130/

Review of ‘Eden’

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Those who have power don’t want to give it up and are often reluctant to share it. Those who don’t have power want it and will often go to extremes to acquire it. When the balance of power begins to shift against those who hold power, bad things can happen.

 

When the male-female balance begins to shift drastically in favor of females, the men in power begin taking drastic and deadly steps to redress the situation. Eden by G.C. Julien and Ash S-J is a different kind of post-apocalyptic novel. The cataclysmic event is not a meteor strike, rising ocean levels, or a nuclear war, but a shift in the birth rate giving women a vast numerical advantage. This leads to all-out gender warfare and the creation of single-gender enclaves at war with each other for survival. Through character shifts and flashbacks the authors show us a dark world that, given the current state of affairs globally, is not an impossible scenario to imagine.

 

In the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation, the actions of a few free-thinking and courageous individuals offer the only glimmer of hope. It is on that hope that the fate of the world rests. A chillingly realistic look at a world that one prays will never come to be. It sucks you in to a whirlpool of action, human angst, violence, and hope, and spits you out at the end breathless.

 

I  received a complimentary copy of this book for review. Without hesitation, I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Read Better Faster’

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If you’re like most people, you were taught to read every word in a sentence or paragraph. While this might be useful when reading instructions, for most other written material, it makes reading a chore. Buck up, though, because Debbie Drum’s Read Better Faster will help you learn techniques to boost your reading speed, and your retention of what you read as well.

This insightful little book takes you step by step through methods for learning a new way to take in the written word. You’re likely to find that as you read it, your reading speed is increasing—provided you take her advice.

A must-have book for anyone who is required to read a lot, and a really nice literary acquisition for anyone who loves to read.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Origin of Legends and the Secrets of the North’

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Brothers Baldr and Thor lived relatively happy lives as orphans after their parents drowned in a frozen lake. But, their world was torn asunder when they noticed strange green lights flashing on a mountain top near their sleepy little town. With their friends, they set out to solve the mystery of the flashing lights but are soon in too deep as they must contend with the freezing arctic weather and an ancient power. In order to survive, they must solve the secret of what lives within the mountain.

Origins of Legends and the Secrets of the North by Adison Runberg is a thrilling tale of adventure, mystery, and magic, that follows the brothers, their friends, Sophia and Nala, and a loyal canine they encounter along the way, as they penetrate ancient secrets and uncover the basis of legends that had been, until that time, only stories.

An interesting story that offers an unusual take on the Nordic legends, and a worthwhile read for a cold spring day.

I received a free copy of this book.  I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Lost Hope’

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After concluding a messy battle with a slimy beast, and completing the assigned retrieval, Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman, and his sidekick, the homicidal housewife, Vicky, go to get their payment. But, their client, ‘Juice’, has decided that he wants some ‘excitement’ in his life. After summoning the Hangman, and ordering him to kill his mother, Martha, Juice hooks up with Arthur and Vicky, and gets them started on a dangerous escapade that threatens not only their lives, but the lives of their loved ones.

Lost Hope by Al K. Line is book number six in the Wildcat Wizard series, and, just like the first five, has a generous helping of matricide, monstercide, and just about every other form of offing bad guys. Whipped back and forth between his normal plane of existence and a few unimaginable other worlds, Arthur decides that his only way out is to send Juice and his minions to their final rest. But, his plans are complicated by the appearance of an old nemesis with an agenda of his own.

If this book doesn’t get your juices flowing, you, my friend, are juiceless. This is without a doubt, the best book of this series, and I can’t wait to see what The Hat gets up to next.

I received a free copy of this book, and I give it five stars. It shines in the universe of paranormal adventure books.

Review of ‘Murder in Notting Hill’

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Two women are murdered, in the same manner, within an hour of each other. One, a wealthy white socialite in upscale Holland Park, the other, a black cleaning woman in the crime-riddled, working class neighborhood of Notting Hill. DCI Isaac Cook knows the two crimes are connected, but is pressed to determine how. He and his team have to deal with the area’s street gangs, the bizarre secrets of the upper crust, and the byzantine maneuvering of London’s police hierarchy, as bodies begin to accumulate.

Murder in Notting Hill by Phillip Strang brings DCI Cook and his team back with a vengeance, as the erstwhile homicide investigator navigates the murky waters of gang warfare, class conflict, and the intrigues within the police bureaucracy. The action moves at a frenetic pace, as Cook and his crew engage in a multi-front struggle to bring the guilty to justice—regardless of their station or class.

This book is, like the first five in this series, a real page-turner, mixing police procedure with insightful looks into the personal lives of the protagonists. I received a free copy of this book, and I give it a solid four stars.

Review of ‘Soul of Stone’

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Gabriel Stone, the lost angel and gambler supreme, is back, and badder than ever. Draxil, the ex-Prince of Hell, has been reawakened, restarting an old feud with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They demand that he be turned over to them, or they will destroy Earth. Gabriel, though, has a problem. Draxil is linked to Aurora, for whom Gabriel is guardian, and if he dies, so does she. In order to prevent destruction, Gabriel must reunite Draxil with his team of demons, who, unfortunately, are either caged in Hell or scattered across the many planes of existence.

Gabriel’s challenge; break the demons out of Hell. Quite a gamble, and one he can’t afford to lose.

Soul of Stone by Leo Romero is the third of the Fallen Angel books, and it takes the reader deeper into the depths of perdition than the mortal mind can fathom. Action and humor war with each other on every page. This one’s a don’t miss for fans of the series.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it five stars.