Month: February 2016

Review of ‘Road to Nowhere’

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Senior citizen Molly Meagher, a former lawyer who decided to get off the treadmill, would like nothing better than to be left alone in her cabin with her cat, but trouble has a nasty habit of dogging her steps.

When she finds a dog in the woods near her cabin that has obviously been abused, and probably used in dog fighting, she decides to take care of it. Unfortunately, along with Dog comes trouble with a capital ‘T’. Molly soon finds herself up to her ample hips in a criminal dogfighting ring using the secluded woods near her abode to escape the notice of the law. When they think Molly has spotted them, they begin to try to remove her from the scene—permanently.

Road to Nowhere by Lee Schultz is a really funny mystery that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that just because you pass sixty, life’s not over. Molly is a character (in many senses of the word) that you can’t help but like. You’ll find yourself rooting for her and hissing at the unnamed bad guys as she dodges bullets, ramming cars, and snarling dogs in a romp not to be forgotten soon.

It has a few typos and formatting issues, or I’d give it top marks. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to give it four stars.

Review of ‘Mind Secrets’

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Michael wakes up in a strange hallway with no memories, with nothing but a knife in his hand and a strange woman calling his name—or, at least, he presumes it’s his name. What he does know is that he must flee. He encounters a man, Agent Cooper, who is chasing him, again, for what reason he does not know. After a struggle in the stairwell of the building, Michael stabs Cooper and makes his escape. Injured in the struggle with Cooper, Michael is afraid to seek treatment until a sympathetic nurse on a smoke break outside a nearby hospital takes pity on him and takes him inside to take care of his injuries.

Inside the hospital, Michael meets two teenagers and learns that they are ‘perceivers,’ people with the ability to tune into the emotions of others. Worse, he learns that the normal people fear them and that Cooper’s allies are enroute to the hospital to detain him. With the help of the two teens Michael escapes and enters the unknown world of the perceivers.

Mind Secrets by Jane Killick is a riveting sci-fi story that takes the reader on a harrowing journey as Michael struggles to recover his memories, a journey during which he discovers a startling and disturbing secret about himself.

Non-stop action that is not just a well-written sci-fi story, but an exploration of prejudice and betrayal that will leave you breathless.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Bullies, Bastards & Bitches’

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Bullies, Bastards & Bitches is a politically incorrect title (in today’s PC world), but it’s the absolutely correct title for Jessica Page Morrell’s book on how to write the bad guys of fiction.

Starting with an in depth description of the primal fears that motivate all of us, Morrell than proceeds to chart how to create memorable bad guy (or girl) characters that will keep readers turning the pages of your book, because they see in what you write the things they fear, and they’re afraid to stop reading.

Replete with examples of effective bad characters from classic fictional works, this book will help you bring life to your writing like no other. A total five star book.

Review of ‘The Art of War for Writers’

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Best-selling author James Scott Bell channels the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu in The Art of War for Writers, a book of strategies, tactics, and exercises to help a writer navigate the terrain of creating characters and plots that will captivate readers.

Writing, Bell maintains, is a lot like waging war, and using the tactics of Sun Tzu, Bell takes readers on a journey through the campaign of bringing stories to life in a way that makes perfect sense. The final chapter alone is worth the price of the book; the writer must apply wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness in the craft of writing, for it’s only through mastering these traits that truly great writing can be achieved.

So, be wise, and sincerely get this book for your reference library, and then have the courage to strictly apply the guidance contained therein to ensure benevolence in your writing.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Mexican Booty’

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Freelance photographer Lucy Ripken lives in New York City, a place of wealth and plenty, but she’s basically broke. When she’s given the chance to shoot some photos of pre-Colombian artifacts for a gallery opening, she jumps at the chance. When a friend of hers who is an expert in pre-Colombian art and history tells her and the gallery owner that the pieces are fakes, Lucy finds herself on a whirlwind tour from NYC to New Mexico to the Yucatan, looking for answers, and ducking art forgers who are willing to kill to protect the lucrative scam they’re pulling.

Mexican Booty by J. J. Henderson is a tongue-in-cheek mystery, laden with humor as it explores the dark underbelly of the art world. You’ll be chilled, and tickled in turn as Lucy, along with her old friend Rosa, and a new-found friend, Maggie, a Texas heiress with a passion for collecting art—and trouble.

Whether she’s swimming for her life in shark-infested waters, or facing off against an obnoxious upper Manhattan socialite, Lucy is a heroine you’ll fall immediately in love with. A great read on a chilly winter afternoon.

I’d love to give it five stars, but there were a few typos and missing words, so I’ll just give it four stars.

Review of ‘Colt’

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Nicholas Colt is a former rock star turned private detective. He works out of a trailer. October 21 is an unlucky day for him, a day on which bad things have happened in his past, so he decides the best thing to do on that day is dive into a bottle and wait for it to pass. Then, a young man comes to him asking his help to find the sperm donor responsible for his existence. Immediately afterwards, the young man disappears and Colt learns that two other children of the same sperm donor were killed on their 20th birthdays—just four days away for his missing client. Like a hound with a scent, Colt sets out to find the young man before his birthday and imminent demise, tangling along the way with a maniacal stalker with destructive tendencies and a biker gang with axes to grind.

Colt, the first offering in a new series by Jude Hardin is a gritty, no-holds-barred thriller that takes no prisoners and spares no sensibilities. Nicholas Colt is a man with a past, and a murky future, the quintessential anti-hero, but a character the reader can’t help but root for, and the cast of characters Hardin has assembled for this romp through murder and mayhem is first-rate in their madness. Started reading, and couldn’t put it down.

Like fine dark chocolate, Colt gets you hooked. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Zen Man’

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Rich Levine is a disgraced ex-lawyer, currently a private investigator, and is aching to get his license back so he can practice law again. He and his current girlfriend, Laura, are operating a bed and breakfast in the mountains of Colorado, and hosting events for criminal defense lawyers in an effort to attract clients to his PI business. Things go off the rails when Levine’s flamboyant ex-wife is murdered at one of the events, and he’s the prime suspect.

Except for Laura, and a partially reformed hippie snowboarder who helps out around the B&B, Levine has no one he can trust—including his former law partner, Sam Wexler, who was having an affair with his ex-wife at the time of her untimely demise.

The Zen Man by Colleen Collins is a rollicking adventure as Levine races against the clock to prove his innocence. This is detective fiction with humor that is a mix of ‘Colombo’ and ‘The Three Stooges.’ You won’t be able to resist Levine’s ragged charm, and you’ll be sucked into his quest like a hair ball in a bathtub drain. Collins keeps you guessing until the end, and breathless at the climax.

Due to a few grammatical gaffes, I’m only giving it four stars.

Review of ‘3 Lies’

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Tired of being on the corporate treadmill, and waiting for finalization of the divorce from his unfaithful wife, Clint Masters has acquired a boat, a dog, and a new girlfriend. His life seems to be changing for the better until, Beth, his new girlfriend, goes missing. No one, from her family or the authorities, seems to be willing to think anything is amiss, but Clint knows better. Moreover, he knows that Beth, in need of regular dialysis, is in danger of dying if she’s not found in time.

3 Lies by Helen Hanson is a riveting techno-thriller that follows Clint’s efforts to rescue Beth, while at the same time staying one step ahead of powerful forces that are determined to keep him in the dark. Told in a measured manner, the story follows Clint step by step as he penetrates the murky world of intrigue, greed, and secret intelligence, aided along the way be a British expatriate with an uncertain lineage, and a neophyte CIA analyst who has been thrust into a situation for which he’s woefully unprepared.

Once you start reading this book, I dare you to try to put it down before you get to the explosive, and surprising, climax. I give it five stars, and am salivating at the prospect of reading the next Clint Masters’ adventure.

Review of ‘The Conspiracy of Silence’

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When a sexy young lawyer’s boyfriend, a high-profile celebrity, is charged with murdering the flamboyant wife of California’s governor, she will go to any lengths to prove his innocence. Rita Spencer finds herself, though, pitted against some very powerful people in The Conspiracy of Silence by Augustine Sam, and when she discovers that the dead woman was a fake, she finds herself in the crosshairs of people who will do anything to protect certain deadly secrets.

A gutsy, gritty novel that exposes Hollywood’s less than glamorous underside, and reveals what really goes on in DC’s corridors of power. With the exception of a few odd indentations in the e-Book version, which I received a free copy of in exchange for my unbiased review, there’s really little not to like about this novel. It starts on a pretty high note, and screams its way to a most satisfying climax.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘No Good Deed’

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Mark Taylor was a modestly successful photographer, living an ordinary life, until he purchased an old camera in a bazaar in Afghanistan. Then, he learned that the camera took photos of horrific tragedies before they occurred, and he later had realistic dreams of the events—events he was determined to prevent. When he gets photos of the 9/11 attacks the day before they took place and tried to warn the government, instead of believing him, they took him into custody and labeled him an enemy combatant.

In a military prison, Taylor learns that being an enemy combatant means the government can do anything they want, any time they want, and there is no way out. Only his almost girlfriend, Chicago police detective Jessica Bishop, believes him, and then only after he’s incarcerated and she sees the power of the camera herself. It’s left to her to convince the authorities he’s innocent.

His travails don’t end with his release, though. He still has the camera, and it tells him of another impending terrorist attack; an attack that only he can stop, but in doing so, he must save one of the government officials who imprisoned and tortured him.

No Good Deed by M. P. McDonald is a riveting psychological thriller that has elements of the paranormal effortlessly entwined with gut-wrenching thrills and action that will take your breath away.

This is the first in a series that shows great promise, and I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Skully, Perdition Games’

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When she was five, Gabriella LeBlanc was abducted by a monster. After several months of captivity and abuse, she was found by police walking on the frozen waters of Lake Superior, and the man who abducted her was found in an isolated cabin with his head smashed in.

Thirty years later, Gabriella disappears again after calling 911 and accusing her husband of assaulting her.

Toronto PI Samantha McNamara and her partner, former cop Reece Hash, are hired by the husband’s attorney to investigate and find information that will clear his client. In the course of the investigation, they uncover disturbing secrets about Gabriella, and a relationship between her and Samantha—and, Samantha has to deal with the demons of her own past.

Skully, Perdition Games by L. E. Fraser will chill your blood. Fraser explores the darkest depths of the human mind, and turns the concept of childhood innocence on its ear. Don’t read this one if you’re home alone at night.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Tahoe Blue Fire’

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Tahoe PI Owen McKenna gets a strange call from a woman who says she fears for her life. He thinks she’s paranoid, and a bit batty, but plays along. When she’s gunned down on her balcony right before his eyes, though, he realizes she was serious—and, now she’s seriously dead—and the only clue she left that might help determine who killed her, is a cryptic note, ‘Medic’ BFF.’. When two more people turn up dead, and someone starts taking potshots at him, McKenna knows something is really wrong. When he starts putting the pieces together, he learns that the dead people all had one thing in common, they were looking for a priceless Italian artifact, the Blue Fire of Florence diamond, and that someone is willing to kill for it.

Tahoe Blue Fire by Todd Borg is a PI mystery that will keep you turning pages until the breathtaking conclusion. You’ll love the characters, flaws and all. Owen McKenna is the new age’s Sam Spade without the attitude. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Trinity’

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When Jacob Davidson is ordained as a priest, the ceremony is marred by the brutal murder of his mentor, Father Stephen Brentwood. Jacob then finds himself immersed in a plot far more sacrilegious than he could ever conceive. In the process of finding Stephen’s killer, Jacob learns dark secrets of his mentor’s past, and things he’s never known about himself, as he’s dragged deeper into the church and closer to the elusive head of the Trinity.

The Trinity by K. P. Ambroziak is a dark tale of the secret and twisted machinations of a religious order that will disturb those who believe in the traditions of the church. The author digs deeply into the forces that motivate those who believe, and those who exploit those beliefs.

A fine tale to read during the cold, dark days of winter. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Next Christmas in Girouette’

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Autry, aged 13, and Oxana, aged 11, are brother and sister who have been forced to travel with their father, Owen Quinn, to spend Thanksgiving with their grandfather, the Captain, in the old ghost town of Girouette, Montana. Bored out of their skulls, after their father suffers a stroke and is hospitalized, they’re left with their grandfather and nothing to do but explore the town.

Next Christmas in Girouette by Michael Welch is the first in a series of YA novels about the strange town, and a 60-year-old mystery that has left the six ‘diehard’ residents of Girouette believing in ‘Santy’ Claus. Young and old alike will enjoy Autry and Oxana’s adventures as they get to know the town’s oddball inhabitants, and learn that the true meaning of Christmas is not how many presents you get, but the relationships that you form.

Although the book is intended for a young audience, it’s a story that the whole family can read and enjoy. Although this is a Christmas story that I should have reviewed in December, its late appearance is entirely my fault for putting it too late in my queue to review. Nevertheless, it’s a good story any time of the year, and I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Only Time Will Tell’

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Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer is book one in the Clifton Chronicles. Harry Clifton, son of a dock worker and a cleaning woman, is a young man with a hidden talent. Skipping school to follow his uncle to the docks, he has no higher hope than joining his uncle at the docks when he’s old enough to leave school. But, Old Jack Tar, an enigmatic man who lives in an old box car at the docks sees in Harry the man he can become. The road to that outcome, however, is littered with detritus of the past, a past that Harry can only guess at. It starts with his father, who he has been told was ‘killed in the Great War,’ a story that even young Harry knows is false.

What he cannot know, though, is that his mother, Old Jack, and other adults in his life, are keeping a dark secret from him, a secret that will emerge from the darkness of the past to haunt him as he stands on the verge of manhood, and is about to marry, Emma, the love of his life. It is a marriage that is doomed from the start by the stunning revelation that Emma might be his half-sister, and worse, that her father—who is possibly Harry’s father as well—was involved in his father’s death.

Looming over all this is the menacing shadow of Hitler’s rise in Germany, and the threat of another war, a war that Harry is determined to serve in.

A stunning portrayal of life in England in the period between World War I and the outbreak of World War II, Only Time Will Tell takes the reader into the lives of the characters in a unique way. The story whips back and forth, detailing the intricate histories of each character; setting the scene with a first person view of each character, followed by a third person account of events that shaped that particular person’s life.

The ending, a bang-up of a cliffhanger, which I will not divulge so as not to spoil it for new readers, sets the stage perfectly for Harry’s further adventures.

Archer writes extremely well, with excellent characterizations, but because of the unresolved issues in the book, I’m only giving him four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Speechless’

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When Detective Inspector John Marco of the Wales Police Service in Cardiff gets an early morning call about a body found in the river, he thinks it’s a routine drowning. But, when it’s discovered that the body has had its tongue removed, he realizes that it’s anything but routine. When another body is found with the tongue removed, Marco finds himself up to his hips in a case involving the close-mouthed and thoroughly intimidated Polish community in Cardiff, prostitution and human trafficking.

Speechless by Stephen Puleston is a riveting crime story that takes the reader from the seamy underworld of Cardiff’s working class neighborhoods to the posh mansions of the city’s upper crust, and then to the dangerous back streets of Warsaw, as Marco chases a merciless criminal whose trademark is removing the tongues of his victims. At the same time, he has to navigate the perilous bureaucratic waters of his own department and his own personal demons.

Crime drama at its best, with some of the strongest character development I’ve seen in the genre since Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels. I give Speechless four stars.

Review of ‘Corrupt Skies’

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Air Marshal Harris Fox is burned out. Moving from the Baltimore PD to the Air Marshal Service to please his wife didn’t work—she still divorced him. He’s now frustrated because the demands of his job cut into the time he has to spend with his daughter. When a string of robberies that the FBI think are being conducted by a crew flying from city to city causes him to be put under cover to surveil a suspected crew, Fox’s life takes another drastic turn. The first assignment turns out to be a bust, but he gets a clue that leads him to suspect that Trenton Quinn, a fellow air marshal, is involved. What follows is a tense drama, leading to a final deadly confrontation at an isolated cabin in the woods.

Corrupt Skies: Episode 1 by Alex Rodgers is a serial centered around the main character, Harris Fox, and the mysterious Micah, who is introduced, but not identified as a bad guy until he kidnaps Fox’s ex-wife and daughter and sends Fox a cryptic message that has him off on another thrilling adventure.

I’m not usually a fan of serial novels that end on an unresolved cliff hanger, but I’m willing to make an exception in this case. Written in tightly written scenes, much like a TV series, this story will suck you in and leave you panting in anticipation of the next episode. I’ll give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Oliver and Jumpy: 31-33’

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Oliver and Jumpy: 31-33 by Werner Stejskal is another fascinating romp with Oliver the elegant tomcat and his friend, Jumpy the kangaroo. An excellent book to read to youngsters, this one has three new adventures. In the first, the crockery comes alive and has a fancy party for Oliver and his friends. It’s followed by a hair-raising adventure when Oliver and friends go boating and encounter a hungry shark, and finally, Oliver becomes tiny and explores the world of the garden.

Colorful illustrations and captivating stories will keep your young ones wanting to hear more.

Another five-star book from Stejskal.