Month: December 2014
Ariel is a former fencing champ who must learn a secret to unlock her true potential as she goes on a mission to free her mother who has been kidnapped by demons. The old, and cheeky guide Walnut decides to aid her, along with Nick the Warrior, whose presence, because of Ariel’s feelings for him, is often more hindrance than help.
I received a free review copy of Tahlia Newland’s Lethal Inheritance, which follows Ariel as she and her companions battle demons who are determined that she will fail in her quest. A fascinating blend of adventure, suspense and humor, this book is a great read for young and old alike. If you like your fantasy with a touch of modern realism woven in, Newland provides it in spades in this, the first book in her Diamond Peak series.
I give this book four stars.
Andrea ‘Andy’ McKnight, a small town girl who has made it big as a real estate broker in LA, left a party in a huff and was found in her car at the bottom of a cliff the next morning. After a long period of recuperation, she returns to LA to pick up the pieces of her life, but suffers memory loss about the events surrounding her near fatal accident – several hours of her time are not accounted for.
P.M. Richter’s Deadly Memories takes the reader on a thrilling and frightening journey with Andy as fragments of memory of that night come back to her, and threaten not just her life, but the lives of those she loves. A cast of intriguing characters caught up in a plot that has international implications. Richter does a superb job of ratcheting up the tension as Andy comes closer to discovering a deadly secret locked in her brain. As the tension mounts, we also follow Andy’s growing love for her former teacher, the wealthy construction magnate, Jake Montgomery and his son Jesse, which has to compete with her loyalty to her friend Rolph, son of a wealthy French family with political connections.
Love, violence, and betrayal mark this thrilling tale of espionage, murder, and terrorism, with enough action scenes to satisfy those who like it, and tenderly drawn scenes as Andy comes to terms with her feelings.
I received a free review copy of Deadly Memories in exchange for my unbiased review. I award Deadly Memories five stars.
Billy and Cindy get a surprise when their Uncle Nick, who they’ve never seen before, comes to visit and babysits them on Christmas Eve. Christmas with Uncle Nick and the Sugarplum Fairies by P. M. Richter, which I received free in exchange for a review, is an interesting twist on Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ It has a series of delightfully cute illustrations as the author has Uncle Nick narrating Moore’s poem, with the addition of fire-breathing dragons that turn out to be something other than the monsters we often think dragons to be.
This is a great book to read to your young ones before, during, or even after the holidays – and an outstanding book for the new young readers to learn to read and to learn about life at the same time. Find out how the sugarplum fairies saved Christmas.
This is a book that adults will also enjoy. Full of humor and good cheer. A must for anyone who enjoys a good story, and the recipe for sugarplums is an added bonus. I only wish I’d gotten a chance to read it before Christmas so that I could have posted my review on Christmas Day – what a great gift that would have been for my granddaughter Samantha who loves books as much as I do.
Five stars only because six aren’t available.
Berlin fell to advancing Soviet forces in May 1945. In the final 20 days of Hitler’s Third Reich, key figures involved in the global struggle called World War II, were on edge, waiting for the final fall.
Philip Gibson’s #Berlin 45 is another in the Hashtag History series that gives the reader an inside view of momentous events in history through the medium of social media postings. In this volume, Gibson covers the final days of Hitler through Twitter postings that take the actual words of those immersed in the events of the day. What comes through clearly here is how Hitler, in the final days, was completely disconnected from reality, and how those around him coped with the fates that awaited them. Tweets from the Allied side, including the aftermath of FDR’s death and Harry Truman’s ascent to the presidency, are brought to life in a way that readers of the current generation can relate to.
In #Berlin 45, the reader can see how the more practical Germans tried desperately to make peace with the western Allies (American and British) to avoid falling under the Soviet sway, and the competition among the Soviet generals for pride of being the ‘first’ in Berlin.
In a short book, readers can see the horror of war and political foolishness in a way that is impossible in wordier historical accounts. Gibson brings the war to life and helps young people in the 21st century better understand a time in history that, though, many decades in our past, still impacts our lives today. I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for this review. I give this Hashtag history five stars.
In the Line of Fire: American Diplomats in the Trenches Paperback – December 24, 2014, edited by Ambassador (retired) Charles Ray
It’s probably no exaggeration to say that most Americans know very little about what American diplomats really do. Except for the occasional tragedy, such as the attack on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in 2013, resulting in the deaths of four Americans (including the ambassador), people don’t realized just how hazardous the life of a diplomat can be – thanks in large part to the highly distorted images in popular media that often show diplomats as dilettantes more interested in attending cocktail receptions than doing ‘real’ work.
In this book you’ll find stories from those who have served in diplomatic positions overseas – stories of events that often never made the headlines in the U.S., but are all too common occurrences in a diplomat’s life.
Included are the names from the Memorial Plaques in the diplomatic lobby of the U.S. Department of State that list the names of over 200 Americans who, over the past 200-plus years have given their lives in the service to their country abroad, and who have often been unheralded except by their immediate family and colleagues. These essays represent those who serve silently – giving voice to their valor and dedication as they, in the words of one of the writers, ‘do what we’re paid to do.’
This book, along with my other books, is available at the store link on my other blog: http://charlesaray.blogspot.com/p/shop-at-charlies-store.html.
You can also order directly:
Kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/Line-Fire-American-Diplomats-Trenches-ebook/dp/B00REL47RA/
Josephine O’Conner is 84, but has a face and body of a much younger woman. That’s because she’s a category 6 wizard. As a wizard of that category she’s been required to work with the government, but she’s now retired – or so she’d like to think. Her nemesis, Detective Riley, calls her in to investigate a serial killer who is using magic to kill his victims and erase all traces.
I received a free copy of Grump Old Wizards: Book 1 by John O’Riley for review. A humorous book, it follows Josephine and her two best friends as she tries to track down a killer whose magic is as strong as her own, while contending with an obnoxious neighbor and assorted other nuisances. It’s a humorous book – for a murder mystery – but a bit dry in places. Josephine is an interesting character who I’d like to get to know better. She is, in this book, unfortunately a bit cliché – the grumpy old lady who just happens to have magic powers and a smart mouth. There should be much more to her than that. Hopefully, she’ll be more fleshed out in subsequent books of what seems to be billed as a series.
Despite the stilted dialogue it’s an interesting story, that I suppose just grows on you. I give it three stars.
Rachel ‘Mack’ White was a simple historian whose husband had cheated on her and then cheated her out of half of everything she owned. She then hooked up with a wacky group of assassins and let herself be talked into going to Mexico on an ‘information gathering’ mission. That mission, unfortunately, put her in the crosshairs of Carmen Amaro, a vicious cartel wife, who decides that she wants Rachel’s head – literally.
Leigh K. Hunt’s Tijuana Nights is an entertaining, spine-tingling mystery-thriller, with enough action to keep your adrenalin pumping for a good weekend. Brilliant characters, credibly described; pithy dialogue; and heart-stopping action scenes, that make you wonder what the author actually does when she’s not writing.
Follow Rachel and her ‘friends’ as they take on a major job – assassinate several cartel members – before the cartel gets them.
I got a free review copy of Tijuana Nights. I strongly recommend you get your own. A thriller you won’t be able to put down. Five stars easy.
When the daughter of a high powered Beverly Hills couple goes missing after a party in Tijuana, the family hires former assassin Leine Basso to find her. When the girl’s boyfriend is find murdered and mutilated in his car, and a local cartel threatens Leine if she doesn’t back off the investigation, she realizes that she’s dealing with more than a simple carjacking gone awry.
In The Body Market, D.V. Berkom takes Leine and the reader into the dark, dangerous world of human trafficking. I’ve read several of the Leine Basso thrillers, but this one sets the standard for adventure thrillers, and is in my humble view, the best yet. Biting dialogue and gritty descriptions are hallmarks of Berkom’s fiction, and she writes action scenes that are as brilliant as freshly spilt blood.
Leine Basso is one tough cookie, capable of inflicting pain or withstanding it, but in The Body Market, the psychic pain she has to endure as she rescues a young girl from a fate worse than death is almost unbearable. This story deals with a subject that is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, in Berkom’s inimitable style. It’s a definite keeper. I was privileged to get an advanced review copy of the book.
If you’re an indie author (or, for that matter, traditionally published), marketing your books is an unavoidable task you’ll have to master. Same goes if you have any product or service that you market, and in today’s increasingly wired world, the Internet is the go-to place for getting the word out to large audiences.
If you’re already experienced in Internet marketing and content creation, you probably already know what you need to know, but if you’re new to this business, The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide to Content Creation: For Websites, Blogs and Newsletters by Karen Banes is a book you should have in your reference collection.
In this 48-page guide, Banes offers tips to help you create content, and gain readership, to enhance your online business. Written in a simple, easy-to-understand style, The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide helps you create quality content in the quantity that ensures that every piece of content you create has the potential to earn money. It includes links to sites that help spread your word far and wide, and you don’t have to be a total computer geek to apply her advice.
Don’t waste another minute. Get this book, read it, and start using Banes’ advice today. You won’t regret it.
A five-star book.
Helen Treharne’s Relative Strangers is not your usual vampire story. It actually sets most of the vampire tales on their ears. I just finished reading a free review copy, and I’m still trying to process what I read.
Sophie Morgan is, on the surface at least, your average twenty-something. When she takes a vacation with her friend, Tracy, and is attacked by what she determines is a vampire, though, things change. The story begins with pulse-pounding action as Sophie is attacked in her home by a flesh-eating vampire, and then in a very long flash back (which could have been better set up, but was still effective) explains that attack.
Treharne’s tale debunks a lot of the myths that prevail in most vampire stories – sunlight doesn’t kill her vamps, nor are they repelled by garlic, but, as Sophie learns, they can be killed. In addition to establishing a whole new vampire culture, Treharne sets up the possibility of further chilling tales – particularly the complicity of certain mortals who are not only aware of the existence of vampires, but who want to be vampires.
Relative Strangers is not ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ even though there are flashes of humor. After reading it, you might think twice before getting up in the middle of the night to investigate sounds downstairs, and you’ll definitely be reluctant to walk down an unlit street.
I give Treharne four stars for her creativity.
What if there’d been social media during World War II? An interesting question given the pervasiveness of social media in today’s world, and one that author Philip Gibson has tried to answer in #Tokyo45, another in his Hashtag Histories; books about historical events told through social media postings. The author provided me a free review copy of #Tokyo45.
The book begins with the capture of Okinawa and, using historical materials, follows the thoughts and actions of the main protagonists in a series of Twitter feeds (tweets). Gibson gives us communications from both sides, from U.S. figures such as Henry Stimson and Harry Truman, and from Japanese such as Koichi Kido, clarifying that the two sides wouldn’t have been able to see each other’s tweets, as they would be in different systems, but showing them to the reader for continuity and better understanding of the timeline. We are, therefore, being put in the outstanding position of being an outside observer to events that would have, at the time, been shrouded in a cloak of secrecy.
Gibson takes us day by day, tweet by tweet, through the final 54 days of World War II, inserting biographical snippets of the main players as he usually does in his Hashtag History series. The result is a better understanding of the human dynamics of the decision making in this crucial period in world history than one would get from a library full of history books.
I’m giving #Tokyo45 a solid four stars.
Jefferson Morgan, after working for the Chicago Tribune for 18 years, returns to his hometown of Winchester, Wyoming and takes over the Bullet, Winchester’s town newspaper. Faced with an inability to meet deadlines or make the payments for the newspaper, he meets Neeley Gilmartin, a man who has just been paroled after spending 50 years behind bars for a killing that he confessed to, but is now claiming that he didn’t do. Gilmartin asks Morgan to prove his innocence, plunging him into a bubbling, putrid mess of the past, and threatening his existence.
The seamy underbelly of a small town comes vividly to life in Ron Franscell’s Deadline, with a cast of characters so alive you can smell the sweat of their underarms. Franscell weaves an eerie, fascinating tale of the tangled relationships that grew out of the murder of a child that, if Gilmartin’s claim of innocence is right, has never been solved, and continues to cast a cloud over Winchester.
I received a free review copy of Deadline, and was enthralled from opening lines, and unable to stop reading until I reached the end. Franscell has written a book that defies categorization – genre hardly matters when you’re reading what is just a darn good story.
A hands down five star book!
Private investigator Miami Jones is asked by an old friend, the athletic director at a college in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to look into the case of a student athlete who suffered a drug overdose, it’s at first just a way to get at the facts to keep the college president from tanking the school’s sports program. The more Jones digs into the case, though, the more worms come crawling from under every stone that he turns over.
Offside Trap by A.J. Stewart is a Florida-based mystery in the Elmore Leonard tradition, with action coming at you at every turn. It has political corruption, big-time drug dealing, and enough the kind of violence that only the Sunshine State can provide.
I received a free review copy of this novel, and spent an interesting rainy morning reading – and, couldn’t put it down. It had a couple of places early on where the dialogue was confusing – couldn’t tell who was talking without reading it three times – but that didn’t keep it from being a great read. Looking forward to more Miami Jones’ exploits.
Stewart gets four stars for this one.