Month: March 2016

Review of ‘Lockdown’

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Ryan Lock, an ex-military cop with the British military, and his partner, retired Marine, Tyrone Johnson, work as a protective security detail for Meditech, a pharmaceutical/biotechnology firm that’s embroiled in a battle with animal rights activists. When the head of the animal rights group is gunned down on the front steps of Meditech immediately after brokering an agreement with the company’s CEO, Ryan and Tyrone find themselves engaged in a fight for their lives as threads of secret plots begin to unravel.

Lockdown by Sean Black is a fast-paced thriller, laced with lots of human drama, as Ryan first has to rescue the kidnapped son of an ex-Meditech scientist, and then finds himself up to his eyeballs in a conspiracy that threatens the lives of millions. Using his military skills, and the ability to cut through the emotional clutter to get the job done, Ryan faces off against the unscrupulous corporate structure that’s more concerned with the bottom line and public image than human lives and a terrorist who is willing to die to get revenge for her own suffering. The action starts on page one, and doesn’t let up until the explosive conclusion.

Enough here for the most avid thriller junkie. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Mutation Z: Desperate Measures’

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With the US military and violent militias targeting everyone trying to find a cure for the Zombie Plague, survivors are fleeing to China seeking refuge in Mark Chen’s bunker. An unlikely ally is found in Dr. Cheng Wu, AKA Wei Chen, Mark’s cousin. The wife of the main militia leader, distraught after he shot their daughter who became infected, is now seeking help for her son who has also become infected.

The tension created in the previous books continues as the survivors race against the clock and deadly enemies to find a cure to a disease that threatens the globe. While the story is still fascinating, the execution of Mutation Z: Desperate Measures by Marilyn Peake doesn’t live up to the preceding books. A bit choppy in places, it almost seems that the author, seeing the end coming, is rushing to finish it. I still enjoyed it, just not quite as much as the earlier books.

I’ll have to give this one a mere three and a half stars. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Review of ‘Death is Forever’

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Meet Delilah West. A gutsy ex-cop turned private detective, she’s obsessed with finding the man who killed her husband and partner, Jack. When a man comes to hire her to find his missing niece, she takes the case to take her mind off the past; but, the past comes back to haunt her. Following a lead on the missing girl, Delilah finds herself waking up in a strange hotel room with a headache, and a body on the bed with a knife in its back—she’s found her husband’s killer, and now she’s the prime suspect in his death.

Death is Forever by Maxine O’Callaghan is a mystery in the style of Mickey Spillane and Elmore Leonard, only with a hard-bitten, no-holds-barred female lead who is every bit as tough and uncompromising as her male counterparts. Gritty action from start to finish, with lots of side trips into the wounded psyche of a heroine for the ages—a book you can’t put down.

I give this book five stars.

Review of ‘Evaluations of the Tribe

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Best friends, Aly and Catty, have their friendship tested when they must learn what they need to know to ensure the survival of their tribe and planet. Evaluations of the Tribe by Raphyel M. Jordan is a science fiction novel about alien beings and an alien environment, but is also a coming-of-age novel of a sort. An interesting theme written in rather choppy and simplistic language, that switches back and forth between Aly and Catty at a relatively breakneck pace.

Not sure how to categorize this book. The author says it’s not a book for young readers, but the language usage is more appropriate for younger readers than more mature readers. I have mixed emotions about it – high marks for the theme, a few points off for the writing style, I end up giving it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘I Am Sleepless’

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Aidan is a 12-year-old Prime on the planet of Ethos. But, unlike other Primes, he possesses more than one ‘talent,’ and while others sleep, he spends his time working through the simulations designed to prepare the Primes to engage in the war against the dreaded Splicers. Aidan has done what no one before him has been able to do; he has reached Sim 299, a mysterious simulation that presents puzzles to be solved that hold the key to winning the war and preserving Ethos and the human race. But, Aidan has other challenges that promise to be as great as the final simulation. He must deal with the older coteries of Primes who are jealous at his abilities, and some of whom have sworn to do him harm; at the same time, he must avoid the unwelcome attention of the aloof and mysterious Director Tuskin who has his own objectives.

I Am Sleepless by Johan Twiss is a convoluted science fiction story that has lots of surreal action and tangled relationships. It is unlike most traditional science fiction; part space opera, part sci-fi thriller. The characters, human, prime, and ‘alien,’ are well-developed and the author’s world building is so complex, yet richly done, suspending disbelief is a snap.

You’ll find yourself rooting for Aidan and his allies as they work step-by-step through the byzantine puzzle that is Sim 299, culminating in an explosive confrontation with Director Tuskin and a profound moment of decision.

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

Review of ‘Seeds of a New Power’

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In Seeds of a New Birth, a lab accident resulted in a new compound created by geneticist Lionel Adams being loosed on the world. Adams’ friend, Flip MacDougal has fathered several exceptional children, including two, Mel and Alp, that resulted from him being seduced by an unscrupulous psychic, Madame Sarrah.

In Seeds of a New Power by Orrin Jason Bradford, we join Alp after she has rescued her sisters from the facility where they’ve been imprisoned. She take them on the run, not only from their former captors, but from her brother, Mel, who has a sadistic streak and a propensity for murder.

I enjoyed book one, despite a few typos. Book two was also enjoyable, but compared to book one, was something of a disappointment. There were more typos and grammatical glitches (using ‘laid’ instead of ‘lay,’ for instance), and the author seemed to be rushing to get from point A to point B, rather than letting the story develop as he did in book one. Some of the scenes seemed a bit contrived—again, perhaps because they weren’t developed sufficiently.

A summary of book one was included at the beginning for those who hadn’t read it, or who read it a long time ago. I feel that any necessary back story could have been more effectively integrated into the story, but to the author’s credit, he did warn that anyone who’d recently read book one could skip the summary. Another weak area, in my view, though, was that chapter one of this book was largely a repeat of the final chapter of the first book.

The theme of this series is interesting, and this is an action packed story, which could be even better if only the author had taken more time to develop it. Seeds of a New Power, unfortunately, did not live up to the standard set by Seeds of a New Birth. I can only give it three and a quarter stars.

Review of ‘Mind Control’

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Michael Sanderson, engineered to be able to see inside the minds of others—a Perceiver—has been coopted to work with the police. His job is to ‘perceive’ suspects and report to his cop partner what he sees. During the questioning of a teenager found carrying explosives, Michael discovers the youth’s mind to be mostly blank, indicating he’d been programmed. At the same time, Michael and his partner are investigating the case of a Russian dissident who is convinced that the Russian government has poisoned him with a radioactive substance.

In Mind Control, book two in the Perceiver series by Jane Killick, Michael is striving to find some kind of existence in the world of ‘normal’ people, people who view him and his kind with fear and suspicion. He also has to deal with the trauma of his father, Dr. Brian Ransom, being on trial for his role in creating the Perceivers by providing contaminated vitamin pills to pregnant mothers, resulting in their children being born with this special power. As he digs deeper into the case of people whose minds have been put under some external control, he learns that Perceivers are capable of more powers than merely being able to ‘read’ minds. This discovery, though, could wreck efforts to peacefully integrate Perceivers into normal society.

This book takes up where the first book in the series left off, and ratchets the tension up immensely. While the author never explains how Ransom’s pill affected unborn children, or what caused ‘natural’ Perceivers, such as Ransom himself, the relationships between Perceivers and normals, which parallels the way many societies treat anyone seen as ‘different,’ are handled well. The action scenes are also well choreographed. All in all, I found this a good read.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give Killick four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Make Me’

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Ex-military cop, Jack Reacher, hasn’t much to do and no place in particular to go. So, when the train he’s on stops in the little farm town of Mother’s Rest, he decides to get off and explore. The town’s not much; a few grain silos and miles of wheat fields. But, he encounters Michelle Chang, a PI who mistakes him for her missing partner. He was working what she thought was a trivial case, and had asked for backup; now he’s missing. With nothing else to do, Reacher decides to hang around with her a while. In doing so, he soon finds himself in the crosshairs of people who want him gone, but Reacher has a motto—if you want me to leave, ‘make me.’

Lee Child’s Make Me is another mile-a-minute, no-nonsense thriller featuring Jack Reacher, a man with no home, but with large principles, and he hates being pushed around. This book, like Reacher, will grab you by the short hairs and hang on until you squeal like a stuck pig. Pulse-pounding excitement on every page will keep you turning pages to see what happens next, and next, and next, until you’re finally satisfied that justice has been done. The only problem is, you’ll never be sure.

Not a book for the faint of heart, or for those who like their heroes cut and dry. Reacher is the uncompromising anti-hero who has his own concept of right and wrong, and when he feels he’s right, it’s best not to stand in his way.

I received a copy of this book as a gift. It wasn’t my birthday, and it wasn’t Christmas, but it was the best gift so far this year.

If you like your fiction dark, you’ll love this. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Drained’

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Former Tampa homicide cop Hank Rawlings has been accepted into the FBI, and his first assignment is with the bureau’s prestigious serial crimes unit. To add to the pressure, he’s immediately assigned to a case involving a serial killer in Chicago who drains the blood from his victims. Working with a partner who he knows is assessing his performance, and dealing with a wife who likes being ‘in charge,’ including deciding how he’ll dress for work, Rawlings is feeling the pressure immensely. As he and his partner get closer to the killer, it becomes more than job pressure—the lives of him and his partner are in danger.

If you’re a fan of the ‘Criminal Minds’ TV series, you’ll love E. H. Reinhard’s Drained, the debut book in the Agent Hank Rawlings FBI Thriller series. Told alternately from Rawlings’ first person view and a third person view of the killer, this story will keep you guessing even after you’ve figured out who the killer is. Reinhard has the ability to string the suspense out until it’s as taut as a violin string. The characters and action come alive under his skillful hand. This is don’t-miss action for thriller fans.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Secret Chord’

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David, King of Israel after Saul, slayer of Goliath; one of the only ancient figures whose life is chronicled almost from birth to death in the Bible, but there is little else to prove his existence. Geraldine Brooks in The Secret Chord, though, paints a compelling fictional picture of the man and the myth through the voices of those closest to him, his wives, children, and most importantly, through Nathan the prophet, a man who was probably closer to him than any other.

A book that neither venerates nor execrates, it shows a complex personality who is often at war with himself, and pulls no punches in its description of society in the Second Iron Age of Israel. Nor does it spare David, as it moves from his youth as a beautiful, but ambitious singer/musician to his days as a bandit, and then his tumultuous reign as king, when he sways between being a merciless tyrant and a benevolent father figure. An addictive read, this book will pull you in and not let you go.

I received this book as a gift, but was so touched by it, I had to share my feelings. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘From Away: Episode Three’

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Dawn Lesguettes’ saga continues on Mossley Island. The unnamed, unknown threat is still ‘out there’ in the sea, and islanders are going missing—including Dawn who fell off the radar at the conclusion of the second episode of From Away by Deke Mackey, Jr., an eldridtch horror story of an island that has cut itself off from the mainland, and only reluctantly allows visits by those ‘from away.’

Dawn has accompanied her father who is returning after a long absence to oversee building a connecting bridge, which many on the island protest, and in From Away: Episode Three she returns after mysteriously disappearing only to discover that she’s been sleepwalking and has come to a barrier separating the rest of the island from the strange town of Adderpool. In the meantime, Roscoe, one of the island’s watchers, has been kidnapped, and the lives of others on the island are falling apart. The enigmatic ruling Circle is ‘circling the wagons,’ leading to a confrontation with the Watch commander, the eerie nuns continue to march around doing who knows what, and a strange couple is exploring the holes they’ve dug around the island.

Mackey’s psychedelic adventure continues with Dawn finally entering Adderpool and almost ‘meeting’ an unidentified, but menacing ‘someone.’ While this is, like many TV serials, a mostly self-contained episode, with enough action and adventure to satisfy, like the two that came before, it ends on a lollapalooza of a cliff hanger, with another character’s fate unknown. Oh, and we still don’t know for sure what it is that is threatening Mossley Island. Still, it’s an enjoyable read.

I’m giving this one four stars, but the author better identify the threat to the island soon, or his writing ability will not save him from my vengeful rating pencil.

Review of ‘The Girl on the Train’

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Rachel takes the same train every weekday, the 8:04 from Ashbury to London, where she watches the landscape flash past, lost in the nightmares of her own tormented past. At one point, where the train slows, near where she once lived, she finds herself drawn into the lives of a couple who occupy a house near the house where she once lived with her ex-husband, Tom. Jason and Jess, as she has named them, have the perfect life she didn’t have, until one day she sees something that shatters the perfect illusion she has created. When she shares what she’s seen with the police, she finds herself drawn into the lives of the couple, and the relationship of their lives with her ex and his new wife; and no one’s life is the same afterwards.

The Girl on the Train is a debut thriller by Paula Hawkins that begins like a train journey, slowly leaving the station, and gradually picking up speed as life flashes past, mostly blurs with the occasional sharp, barely remembered glance. Hawkins pulls the reader into the lives of the characters, moving from Rachel to Megan (Jess in Rachel’s mind) to Anna, her ex-husband’s new wife, in a journey that sucks you in like the muck at the bottom of a sluggish stream. This is mystery as mystery should be—with red herrings, misdirection, in a tangled line that leads inexorably to a shattering conclusion that will leave you breathless.

I received this book as a gift, and after finishing it felt compelled to share my views on it. Rarely does a debut novel impress me the way this one did. Paula Hawkins is an author to watch out for.

A solid five-star book!

Introducing the Four Winds Series by Anne Conley

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Four Winds Series
Anne Conley
The Four Winds is a series of stories by Anne Conley of God’s archangels: Uriel—the archangel of destiny, Rafael—the archangel of healing, Gabriel—the messenger, and Michael—the angel of war. Watch as each one defeats the devil, known as Damien, who thinks he’s entitled to their brides. See their struggle as they experience humanity for the first time in the name of love. Warning: contains elements of Christianity, coupled with some sex scenes, and what people may consider heretical viewpoints. 
Falling for Heaven
Uriel is one of God’s Four Winds, the Archangel of Destiny. He has helped thousands of people throughout the ages find their destiny according to His will. This time however, what he doesn’t realize, is that it’s his own destiny he’s supposed to fulfill.Heather is an exotic dancer, who’s stage name is Heaven. It’s not that that’s what she’s always wanted to do, it’s just that it helps her pay the bills, and she’s got a lot of bills, with taking care of her mother and her sister. When the mysterious Uriel comes into the club, she can tell he’s different, just how different will rock her world…


Falling for Grace
 Rafael is one of God’s Four Winds, the Archangel of Healing. He has answered the countless prayers for healing of loved ones, wondering what it was about the emotion that made humans willing to sacrifice so much. 

Grace is a lifeguard who has been on Rafe’s radar since she lost a little boy three years ago. What she doesn’t realize is the green haze that comes over her during a rescue is actually a divine presence who’s about to give up his celestial body to become a very real entity in her life. 

While Grace is trying to overcome her own demon, Rafe is discovering his own sexuality, but there’s a darker presence making himself known. The Deceiver wants what Rafe is getting, and he’ll do whatever it takes to have her.


Falling for Hope
Hope is an eccentric librarian who lives with her five cats and loves to spend her time fantasizing about living in a world of shape-shifters, vampires, and fairies. Although the existence of a paranormal world is far from Hope’s reality, she can’t help but sense there’s something different about the mysterious man lurking in her library. 

Gabriel is God’s Strength, the Messenger, who’s been tasked with delivering the Word for millennia. His most recent assignment will be his last, to fall in love and become human. But he can’t quite figure out what he’s done to displease the Boss. Gabriel’s latest assignment might be the hardest, but this gorgeous rubenesque quirk of a woman definitely has him intrigued.

Falling for Faith 
In this, the fourth book in the Four Winds Series, the story is more intense, Damien is more intense, the sex is more intense. The entire series thus far has escalated into this, the archangel of war’s story. 

Michael, the archangel of war, is pissed. Humanity has taken every last vestige of any feelings he might have had and colored them in with cynicism. He’s ready to be done. So when The Boss gives him the deal, he’s eager for his mortality, at any cost, regardless of who he has to ‘fall in love’ with to get it. Blessed death. That’s what he’s looking forward to. When he finds out what Faith does for a living, he’s pissed off all over again. 

Faith is a cat burglar, but when she inadvertently makes a deal with Damien, Michael steps in to protect what is rightfully his. She’s not over her own tragic past, and this hulking bundle of hotness can’t change that. But when he insists on protecting her, claiming her, and dominating her, she is powerless to deny her own emotions. 

For mature audiences. Contains swear words, sex, elements of BDSM, and possibly heretical viewpoints. 

Excerpt from Falling for Faith

“Ballsy… breaking in with a house full of people.”  The quiet voice behind her had her heart pounding before he’d even finished speaking.  Spinning on her heel, she turned to find an exquisite man lounging on the chair in the middle of the room, watching her with interest, if not amusement.  Something else shone in the depths of his eyes, though.  Anger?

“It’s actually easier this way,” she whispered.  He’d caught her in the act, there was no use denying it.  And his relaxed posture, legs casually crossed, leaning back, stroking his chin, told her he wasn’t in a hurry to turn her in.  Did he want a cut?

Nope.  She wasn’t going to let him screw this up.  This was her last job for Shamus, and she’d be damned if she’d let herself get caught now.  Security.  He had to be on security detail here, and she must have done something to give herself away.  He had followed her.  She wasn’t sure how, but he had.  And now she was busted.

“Who are you?”

He didn’t answer her, which was irritating, but she wasn’t exactly in a position to force the issue.  As tall and fit as she was, she could see he was taller and fitter, even from his seated position.  She didn’t need a scene here tonight.  Maybe a distraction would work.

Licking her lips, Faith eased her hip to the side, revealing a leg.  She watched the man’s eyes snap to her shoes then reached behind her head for the clip holding her chignon in place, releasing it.  Her hair fell in waves to just below her shoulders, and Faith swung it around, fluffing it with her hands.  The man stood.

“What are you doing?”  His voice was rough, scraping across her skin to leave delicious abrasions behind.  No longer pretending, her breaths came in raspy gasps.

“Subduing the enemy without fighting.” Faith spoke to herself more than the man, but he seemed to hear anyway.  She always turned to Sun Tzu when she was in danger.  Eli had ingrained it in her.  Sun Tzu knew everything.

He moved closer, gliding, with the grace of a predator, and Faith saw she was in some serious trouble.

His sensuous mouth quirked into a smirk.  “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”  Laughter filled his voice, and she saw amusement twinkle in his eyes, crinkling around the edges.

Shit.  He knew Sun Tzu too.  Undeterred, she continued, using her sexuality as a tool.  She pursed her lips and forced a breathy quality to her voice. “To avoid what is strong, strike at what is weak.”  His silver eyes penetrated into her, looking deep inside her.  She felt naked under his gaze as it traveled across her face.  She was so intent on those eyes that she didn’t realize his hands had moved.

A knuckle grazed her cleavage, and she lost her breath.  She inhaled deeply, trying to get much needed oxygen into her system, but it only served to raise her breasts higher, into his touch.  It burned.  The humming in her body was louder than ever as if it was connected to this man’s presence.  She could feel it in her bones, her cells.

The man’s perfect face lowered closer to hers until their mouths aligned but didn’t touch.  She could feel his warm breath on her lips as they moved.  “The expert in the battle moves the enemy and is not moved by him.”

He hadn’t moved to subdue her, but neither had she.  Faith was paralyzed by a sudden lust coursing through her veins.  With all of her being, she wanted to grab this man and smash her lips into his, feel that little scrub of hair on his chin against hers.

With every ounce of will she had, Faith turned away from him, back towards the safe in the wall.  She could only hope to get out of here without police involvement at this point.  “The wise warrior avoids the battle.”  She heard rustling behind her, and when he spoke next, she realized he’d moved back to the chair.

“I can see it.”  He spoke as if to himself, murmuring so quietly she almost didn’t hear.  “We’d make a decent match.  You’re almost as irreverent as I am.  And you know your Tzu.”

Without a word she slipped her hand back under her skirt again and retrieved her multipurpose tool.  She’d have to come back, but she wasn’t going to let this asshole get what was hers.  Doing her best to replace the faceplate in a hurry, she left the wall safe a ridiculous mess, not having taken anything from it.  Super.  She could hear him muttering behind her about thieves and Jezebels and tamped down the flash of irritation that flared to life.

“I work alone.”

“For now.”  He chuckled as she darted out the door and back downstairs.  She didn’t dare glance back.

Falling for Cyn
Damien is bad—the original Evil. Satan from Hell on Earth has been his identity since forever. The Devil. Beelzebub. Minister of Evil. Prince of Darkness. Lucifer. Old Scratch. 

He’s never been given a choice in this prison of fate, but it’s his turn now. 

Hell is about to meet his match. When Damien gets a woman, the only underworld he’s ever known changes. She’s chosen for him, but she’s enough… 

Cynthia doesn’t believe in Hell; she believes in kindness and science, and the greater good. She’s perfect, and pure and… 


But she’s his. 

And he’ll move Heaven and Hell to keep her. 

This is Anne Conley’s final installment in the Four Winds series.

Excerpt from Falling for Cyn

“Oh God…” she murmured under her breath.

“Are you alright?  Do you need the hospital?”  He knew what was happening to her, and it was probably embarrassing to her, but he was turned on beyond belief, and it was something he’d never felt before.  Sure, he’d indulged in carnal pleasures with women before, but this was something completely different.

“Yes…  No… Oh God…”  He steered her out of the restaurant, and as soon as they made it out the door, Cynthia pushed him against a wall.  “Stupid tumor…” she moaned as she threaded her fingers around his neck, pulled his head down, and crashed her lips against Damien’s.

The feel of her lips on his took his breath away.  The soft heat of her tiny little tongue as it swept inside his mouth with a whimper caused him to lose all semblance of control.  He didn’t know what came over him, but he had to have this woman.  Now.

His hands immediately grasped her ass and spun her around so she was against the wall.  He lifted one of her legs, wrapping it around his hip, and ground his erection into the warmth separated from him by their clothes.  He’d never felt anything like this lust before.  He needed her with a burning fire that he wasn’t sure one night with this creature could douse.

She responded, pressing against him wantonly.  Her fingers tangled in his hair, and the prickly pain made him groan.  He pushed the vision, knowing the image of them in her bed—a mass of sweaty tangled limbs—was undoing her, the same way his mental fondling was.

The same way it was undoing him.  A torrent of lust wracked his body, and he fairly shook with it.  He wanted her.  Right here.

Damien so wanted to do some real-life fondling, to sink his fingers inside her wet heat and feel her pulse around him, but some conscious thought told him that wouldn’t do.  Not on the first date.  He knew enough about good women to know that wouldn’t further his purpose with Cynthia.

She was whimpering into his mouth, and he swallowed the sounds eagerly.  He continued his grinding, building her to heights he couldn’t even imagine.  His own erection was painful, but he held back doing anything to relieve it, knowing this was for her.  He selfishly wanted to show her what they’d be like together.

She flew apart in his arms—on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant—with a muffled cry which he devoured with his kisses.  He could kiss her forever, he realized.  As she came down from her climax, he slowly lowered her but didn’t stop kissing her, wanting her with every fiber of his being.

When she pushed him away, a sinking feeling flooded him, dousing the fire with disappointment.

“Um… I’m sorry.”  She was straightening her hair and smoothing her pants, refusing to look at him.

“Don’t be.”  He couldn’t keep his hands to himself, so he cradled her face with his palm, thinking that may be a classy way to reassure her.

“I have to be.  That was really embarrassing.”  Her eyes darted around to see if anyone had seen them, but he chucked her chin with a finger.

“It was beautiful, Cynthia.”  Beautiful wasn’t the word for it.  It was magnificent, celestial.  She glowed with an inner light that nothing could extinguish, better than any fantasy he could conjure.

About the Author
Anne has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She’s been writing for public consumption for the last four years. Currently she is writing three romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God’s four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in 
love and becoming human. In Pierce Securities, she gives us Ryan, Evan, Miriam, Zack, Quinten, and Simon. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.
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Review of ‘The Reluctant Hero’

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All Parnell Stillman wants to do is fly, and get his freight hauling airline out of hock. The last thing on his mind is hooking up with a woman—he got his fill of that with his ex-wife. Rebecca Hollis has also had her troubles in the love department. She now works for a home for children, and has been tasked with getting five orphans from Idaho to San Francisco to be adopted—hopefully.

The problem they both face is that they’re thrown together, since Parnell has been hired to fly them, and they hate each other on sight. When bad weather forces the plane down in the wilderness, and they’re forced to get along in order to survive, both their lives change in ways neither could have foreseen.

Jackie Weger’s The Reluctant Hero is something of an adventure/romance, with as much emphasis on the former as the latter. An eclectic cast of characters and a compelling setting keeps the reader’s interest as they struggle to survive against the unrelenting wilderness and deadly weather. Even if you’re not a fan of romance fiction, you’ll like this book. I give Weger four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Vows to the Fallen’

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Patrick O’Toole came from a family of fishermen and sailors. He’d always known that the navy was his destiny. Raised by a stern grandfather, he also had to live with doubts that he was ‘adequate’ to the tasks before him. He joined the navy just in time for World War 2, but when a ship is sunk by the Japanese when he’s officer of the deck, his doubts intensify, and he becomes even more driven and determined to do better.

Vows to the Fallen by Larry Laswell is military fiction at its finest. It chronicles the saga of Patrick O’Toole during some of the most momentous and horrific sea battles of the Pacific as the Allies tried to beat back the Japanese fleet. The action is so rich in detail, the acrid smell of gun powder and blood will sting your nose, and the cries of the wounded and dying will haunt your dreams. Laswell writes about war as it is; not the stylized version you see on the screen, but the dirty, bloody reality that those who go to war experience.

If you’ve never read war fiction, start with this one. If you’re a fan of the genre, put this on your list to read next.

I give this one a resounding five stars.

Review of ‘Seeds of New Birth’

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Geneticist Lionel Adams is on the verge of scientific breakthrough, a finding that could unlock the full potential of the human brain. But, a surprise visit from his old college mate, Flip McDougal, and a lab accident that infects McDougal with the compound Adams is working on, quickly spins out of control, unleashing forces that threaten them both, but more dire, threatens the world.

Seeds of New Birth by Orrin Jason Bradford is a chilling sci-fi thriller about science run amok, bureaucratic rigidity, and treachery that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Adams, a buttoned-down researcher finds himself out of his depths as the fallout of his experiment spreads across the country.

The author starts on an upbeat note, but very quickly whips out the dark paint and creates a scenario that gets darker by the page, with frightening glimpses into minds that have power without the maturity to use it properly, and lacking the social conditioning that could limit the exercise of that power. This is the first in a series that will have you panting for the next one.

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

Review of ‘Thrum’

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Air Force pilot, David Weaver, unleashes a missile on a Chinese hospital while on a routine patrol during the 2025 US-China War, and then has to go on the run with his son, Toby, when he realizes that there are forces at work that he doesn’t understand. A high school student in West Texas, Maya, discovers strange growths in animals while she and her friend, Carlos, are exploring the wilderness near their homes.

These two disparate events come together in a thrilling story about a mysterious ‘they’ who are controlling people, and somehow causing mass suicides. When their paths intersect, along with the strange woman who gave David a mysterious orb with the warning to ‘never take it off,’ it begins a chilling race for their lives.

Thrum by S.K. Slate is a science fiction thriller that takes place in the not-so-distant future that weaves human relationships with conspiracy theories, setting up an interesting theme. Unfortunately, the author leaves the reader hanging with far too many loose threads still flapping and mysteries unresolved. Too much head hopping from one character’s point of view to another is confusing, and not enough detail of the ‘conspiracy’ is given to help the confused reader make sense of who is doing what, and why.

While I found the theme interesting—fascinating even—the failure to offer explanations of some of the mysteries (what, for instance, is this mysterious ‘they’ hoping to achieve?) is something of a turn-off. This is a story with great potential, but it needs more coherence to be truly effective. It’s a five-star concept, but, unfortunately, a three-star execution.

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

Review of ‘Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu’

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Pharaoh Khufu, called Cheops by the Greeks, was the second ruler of Egypt’s fourth dynasty of pharaohs, and the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza. For centuries this structure has been shrouded in mystery, and its secrets guarded by an ancient tribe of Nubia, the Medjay.

When a German engineer is suspected of stealing one of the pyramid’s most sacred relics he is killed by a Medjay warrior, but the relic is still missing. The quest to retrieve it pulls American software engineer Michael Doyle, on vacation in Egypt to see the pyramids, into a deadly cycle of murder and intrigue as he and the dead engineer’s daughter, Anna Schulze flee a relentless pursuit from Egypt to Germany to Russia, and to a final confrontation in Egypt, as they try to solve the pyramid’s mystery, and stay alive in the process.

Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu by Alexander Marmer is a compelling story that weaves ancient Egyptian history with a modern mystery as Michael and Anna engage in a race against time to find the stolen artifact and redeem Anna’s late father’s reputation. Though the action is fast-paced, the story gets bogged down in places when the author narrates interesting, though not always necessary, historical facts. At times, because the timeline switches back and forth between the two main characters and their Medjay pursuer, it gets a bit confusing, but in the end, patience is rewarded as the story comes to a logical and satisfying conclusion.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give the concept five stars, but must detract a few points for the execution—too much telling rather than showing, with a final rating of 3.7 stars overall.

Review of ‘The Train’

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Jean ‘Jack’ Jourdain is a young man growing up in Mobile, Alabama in the 50s and 60s. He has a very close relationship with his father, who is his mentor and friend. In The Train by Tony Jordan, we follow Jack’s life as he grows up under the shadow of his father’s impending death from a variety of ailments, and learns the value of the subtle lessons his father teaches him.

A rich portrayal of one aspect of life in the South in the 1950s and 60s, and how one young man, through the relationships he has, learns to stand on his own, and to be true to himself. A story of friendships, in particular Jack’s friendship with Jean-Louis Thibodeaux, the scion of a wealthy Mobile family, who becomes his best friend in college, but most significantly, Jack’s friendship with his father, a man who refused to allow the circumstances of his own birth, or the social strictures of southern society to beat him down, The Train is a great debut novel that contains many essential truths that are conveyed through the eyes of the main character, making them all the more profound.

While I found it a bit frustrating not knowing the narrator’s name until chapter four, the incremental introduction of Jack and his responses to life turned out to be a strong point of the book. You sort of know who he is, even if you don’t know his name, and by the time it’s introduced, you’re inside the mind of this unnamed character, seeing the world through his young eyes.

Clean prose, rich descriptions, and an inexorable growth in the character from page one until the end, marks an outstanding first novel by a promising writer. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Oliver and Jumpy, 34-36’

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I’ve been an adult fan of Werner Stejskal’s ‘Oliver and Jumpy’ series since reading the first one. These are great bedtime stories for the young ones, and my grandchildren love following the adventures of Oliver, the self-centered and elegant tom cat, who, along with his kangaroo friend, Jumpy, gets into all kinds of pickles, but always manages to come out okay in the end.

In Oliver and Jumpy 34-36, we learn how Oliver got his signature white top hat, see the antics he gets up to when he joins the circus, and go along with him and Jumpy when they’re asked to explore a ship wreck to retrieve a wedding tiara.

Elegantly (as Oliver) illustrated, each story contains a subtle lesson for the young ones, but primarily, they’re just entertaining. I give this one four stars.