Month: June 2016

Review of ‘Savage Echoes’

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Detective Nicki Savage receives an anonymous 911 call, with the caller claiming responsibility for a missing college student. Savage is immediately on the case, but she needs the help of Duncan Reed, an artist with a photographic memory. The problem is, he’s also trying to force her to deal with her commitment issues.

Savage Echoes by R. T. Wolfe is a short story—too short, really—that ended just as my enjoyment was reaching its peak. Punchy dialogue and memorable characters deserving of a much broader stage. This is a quick, but enjoyable read.

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

Review of ‘Wisdom Spring’

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After causing the death of his daughter by trying an unapproved drug for her cancer, Jon Harper chucks everything and runs away from life. On a lonely Texas road he picks up a hitchhiker, Jessica Norton, who is also on the run, accused of murdering four of her colleagues, aides to a U.S. Senator who Jessica claims is not who he claims to be. She knows this because she hears a ‘voice’ in her head that seems to be guiding her to information that will answer all her questions, and that seems to have ‘guided’ her to Jon.

In a very short time, Jon finds that he does in fact have a purpose in life; protecting Jessica as she seeks answers, while eluding the law and the powerful hidden group that wants her dead. The two find themselves running across Canada and the wilderness of Alaska, learning to be hunters rather than the hunted, just steps ahead of powerful forces.

Wisdom Spring by Andrew Cunningham is a chilling thriller that goes behind the headlines and into the dark corridors of unchecked power at the highest levels. From a slow, dark start, the tension and pace ratchets up bit by bit and races to an explosive climax. Great summertime reading for people who like their action nonstop.

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

Review of ‘Hard Fall’

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Thomas Blume was an up and coming NYPD cop, until his wife and son were murdered in London. Now, burned out, Blume is working in London as an off-the-books PI while he searches for their killer. When he stumbles across a case that has the London cops baffled, he finds himself hip-deep in criminals, thugs, and corrupt officials, and someone’s willing to kill to keep him from solving the case.

Hard Fall by P. T. Reade is a new entry in the hard-boiled, noir mystery fiction, reminiscent of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series, but Blume’s no Mike Hammer. He has problems keeping his mind on his case and his lips off the booze, but somehow, he has to pull it together or he’s a dead man. In this riveting story, even the weather’s villainous. Follow along as Blume stumbles his way to finding a killer—if you dare.

I give Reade four stars for this one, and look forward to Blume’s further misadventures.

Review of ‘Ashley Bell’

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Bibi Blair is a lively woman with an extremely positive attitude. When her doctor tells her she has only a year left to live, she simply says, ‘We’ll see.’ She then becomes obsessed with a woman’s voice telling her that she has been saved so that she can save someone else, a woman named Ashley Bell.

Dean Koontz is well known for his twisted mysteries, and he has outdone himself with Ashley Bell, a novel about a young woman whose miraculous recovery from a fatal disease astounds everyone—herself included. You’ll find yourself completely immersed in Bibi’s quest to find the mysterious Ashley Bell, and learn why she has been chosen to save her. I can guarantee you the ending of this book will gob-smack you between the eyes like no other book has ever done.

If you want a mystery/thriller with a difference, this book should be number-one on your list of summer reading.

I received this book as a gift, and couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.

Five stars.

Review of ‘Swarm’

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John’s in a dead end job, only staying because of his devotion to his wife and son. When a sick man enters his shop, life takes a distinct downward turn, not just for John, but for the whole world. What’s causing people to turn into flesh-eating zombies? John goes on the run with other survivors, but can he really do anything?

Swarm by Alex South is a zombie apocalypse novel set in London. Despite being a bit choppy, it’s an interesting take on the subgenre, with its focus on the individuals impacted by the ‘plague.’ Chillingly graphic descriptions of zombie attacks might be a bit much for the fainthearted, but zombie fans will eat it up—no pun intended.

Because of the choppy prose, I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Undraland’

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After the deaths of her parents and her twin brother, Lucy tries to get on with her life. Her dreams of attend medical school are dashed, though, when she’s attacked by a rabid bear and rescued by handsome, but short-tempered, Jens, who transports her to a place where the creatures of Scandinavian folklore her grandmother told her actually exist. As she’s pulled deeper and deeper into Undraland, and caught up in the quest to defeat the last Siren, she realizes that her life will never be the same again.

Undraland by Mary E. Twomey is a delightful tale, not quite sweetness and light like Alice in Wonderland, but with just as many improbable creatures, and plenty of adventure. After reading this book, you’ll never look at garden gnomes the same way again.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Sex, Lies & Sweet Tea’

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FBI Agent Max Callahan goes back to his southern hometown to bust a white collar crime ring. He plans a quick ‘in and out,’ but his planes are derailed when he meets Samantha Peterson, a beautiful woman who not only has the evidence he needs to close his case, but all the hot charm that southern women are famous for.

Sex, Lies & Sweet Tea by Kris Calvert is an exciting romp through the small towns and backwoods with enough hot action to keep your pulse racing from page one to the end. It will be instantly familiar to anyone who has lived below the Mason-Dixon Line, and a good introduction to the south to those who haven’t.

Everything is hotter in the south, and that includes all action—legal and otherwise. You really ought to read this book. I received it as a gift, and once I started reading it, I skipped a couple of meals to finish it. I give it four stars, and look forward to the author’s next book.

Review of ‘Babytrick’

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Mark Cremeni, a journalist, is in Detroit to do a story for Rolling Stone about the Motor City. His planned profile on the city and its mayor takes a sharp turn when he meets Camie, a 14-year-old prostitute running away from one of the city’s biggest brothels, and Gabriella, an ex-cop who is now an attorney for the city who has concerns about a major development project that might have some shady undertones.

The two women’s lives cross at the intersection of Detroit’s mean streets and the smoke-filled backrooms of the corrupt power elites, with Camie being pursued by two ruthless gunmen who work for her abusive step-father, and Gabriella fighting off a bogus murder charge. It’s left to Mark, the outsider, to see the relationship between the two situations and somehow save them both—hard to do when people are shooting at you.

Babytrick by T. V. LoCicero is noir fiction a la  Mickey Spillane, complete with smoking hot dames, damsels in distress, hard-case crooks, and shootouts—it even has a hard-bitten, do-anything-to-save-a-client PI, although he’s not the main character, which elevates this into a category all its own. LoCicero has an ear for the way people at different social strata talk, and a keen eye for describing just enough detail to enable you to see the action, hear the action, and smell the action.

When you meet the characters in Babytrick, you’ll love them, or you’ll hate them; the one thing you won’t do is forget them.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. This one’s an easy five stars.

Review of ‘Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall’

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With her world, Cerulean, on the brink of collapse, the intrepid young Listlespur, Barra, must break all the rules to save it. The world of Great Tree floating on an ocean is becoming dark, and only what Barra has learned about the plague of the creeping vine can stave off extinction.

Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall by Aaron Safronoff is a colorfully illustrated fantasy novel that will appeal to fantasy fans of any age. Characters that are all too real despite their strangeness and a world worthy of H.P. Lovecraft will keep you turning pages.

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

Review of ‘Ravage’

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Nick Adams is a salesman in a dead-end job, a job he hangs onto only because of his devotion to his wife and son. One day, a sick man walks into his shop, and Nick’s life is forever changed, as are the lives of everyone else on earth.

Ravage by Iain Rob Wright is a zombie apocalypse novel with a fury, as we follow Nick and other uninfected survivors through a gauntlet of flesh-eating undead. If you’re a fan of zombie novels, you’ll like this. It doesn’t break much new ground, and the author jumps from character to character quite a bit, but on balance, it was a pretty good read.

I liked the story, but I can only give it three stars for execution.

Review of ‘Deadly Impressions’

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Deadly Impressions by Art Johnson is a complicated mystery. When heiress Stephanie Fick is kidnapped, but no ransom demand is sent, the LAPD hires cashiered LAPD detective, now PI, Arnold Blackburn to use his contacts on both sides of the law to try and rescue her. The FBI gets involved, in the person of one of Arnold’s old friends, FBI special Agent Chubbs Gonzales and his partner Chris Clark. The story takes many twists and turns, with plenty of action and the specter of art stolen by the Nazis before and during World War II figuring significantly in the kidnapping—if only Arnold and his comrades can determine how.

This is an interesting story that would make a good movie, but the book needs some work in the proofreading department. A number of grammatical errors are easy fixes, but the author also does a lot of head hopping, making it difficult to determine the principal character(s); at times it appears to be Arnold, but at others the focus is on Gonzales and Clark, who come in late in the story.

It’s an enjoyable read for mystery fans, in particular readers who like having actual historical events mixed in with a compelling plot—and the author gets good marks for plotting and pacing. Unfortunately, I can only give it three and half stars for overall quality, though.

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

Review of ‘Titanborn’

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Malcolm Graves is a bounty hunter. He doesn’t question his jobs, he just gets them done. He runs into a problem though, when his superiors send him off to Titan, home to humans for centuries, to solve the case of a mysterious, high-profile bombing on Earth. This time, though, they pair him up with a partner who is more machine than human, complicating his mission to track down a group of dissidents whose sole aim is to free Earth from tyranny.

Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno is an exciting space thriller written in the style of Phillip K. Dick that will grab your interest and not let go until the last page. Great dialogue, and a world that is brought to life in Technicolor and surround-sound. A not-to-be-missed sci-fi read.

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

I give Bruno four stars for this book

Review of ‘Scandalous Behavior’

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Stone Barrington is wealthy enough to buy almost anything he desires. What he desires is a peaceful stay in England, but that peace is disrupted when an attractive lady friend, who also happens to be part of British intelligence, convinces him to buy an English estate. His peace is disrupted when he finds himself embroiled in local rivalries, including murder, at the same time that a relentless adversary from across the Atlantic in the U.S. decides to pursue him in England.

Scandalous Behavior by Stuart Woods, though a bit choppy in places, is a delightful summertime read. Characters are convincing and the settings are as much a part of the mystery as the characters and plot.

This one will not disappoint. I received this book as a gift.

I give Woods four stars for this one.

Review of ‘The Guilty’

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Will Robie is a government assassin who is facing a crisis—his skills appear to have vanished, and he no longer has the confidence to carry out his missions. When he learns that his estranged father has been arrested and charged with murder, he realizes that he must solve the problems of his troubled past in order to bring his present into balance. Back in his small Mississippi home town, Will finds that little has changed, except that now his life is in jeopardy, from the most unexpected quarter.

The Guilty by bestselling author David Baldacci is a story that must rank among one of the author’s best. A tense thriller, it also explores the depths of interpersonal relationships and personal angst, and will keep you turning pages until the explosive and totally unexpected ending. You will find yourself inside Will’s skin as he confronts his hard-nosed father, his own guilt, and a social system that has resisted much of the change that has taken place in the rest of the world.

It’s tempting to try and read this book in one sitting—don’t do it. Savor it; let the author’s words wash over you. This is Baldacci at his absolute best. I received this book as a gift, and the donor is now forever on my A-list.

Review of ‘Black Bead’

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In a remote area, a colony of psionically-enhanced humans lives a utopian existence, in harmony with most of their surroundings. The matriarchal society seeks to further improve their psionic ability, so each girl child is tested during a coming-of-age ceremony. But, Cheobawn, daughter of the First Ruling Mother of Windfall Dome, is marked with a black bead on her Choosing Day. The black bead is a sign of bad luck and shame.

But, a group of adventurous boys desire to explore beyond the dome, so they defy custom and select Cheobawn to be the psychic Ear for their group.

Black Bead by J.D. Lakey follows the adventures of this intrepid group as they discover what lies beyond Windfall Dome, and Cheobawn learns that luck is what you make of it.

I give it four stars.

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A Cheetah hiding in the grass graces this stylish iPhone case.


Review of ‘Die by the Pen’

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FBI Agent and former Olympian Naomi Soul, and her partner agent Xue Sang are supposed to be on vacation in Florida. But, when two famous authors start turning up killed using methods in their books, they’re assigned to be observers in the investigations. When the same thing starts happening in California, they’re certain there’s a particularly vicious and intelligent serial killer on the prowl. As they get closer to the killer, Naomi finds herself in the crosshairs. Can she find the killer before she becomes the next victim? Read Miles A. Maxwell’s Die by the Pen and find out.

A chilling thriller that follows Naomi and her partner from east to west coast and back, in pursuit of a killer whose methods are bizarre, but whose motive is even stranger. A surprise on nearly every page in a mystery that you won’t be able to put down. The ending will blow your mind.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Ribbons of Death’

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When a horribly scarred man shows up at the door to her isolated cabin, and shows her a blood-stained book, Stella Hunter is convinced that her ‘Peace-taker’ theory, a theory that got her branded as a crackpot by her fellow researchers, and ended her marriage, is finally validated. She believes that once in a Blue Moon, a child is born with the ability to cause people to erupt into a frenzy of killing by merely walking among them. With the aid of the scarred stranger, Carter, she sets out to prove her theory and stop the madness that threatens to engulf the U.S. But, can she do it when she could easily be killed by a total stranger standing next to her?

Ribbons of Death by Edita A. Petrick is a chilling tale that combines the paranormal and international thriller genres effortlessly into a tapestry of horror and intrigue. The characters, in larger-than-life situations, are all too human, and even the supernatural is made logical in this finely crafted story that will keep you reading—and breathless—until the very satisfying end. It has a few military inaccuracies—which won’t be noticed by anyone unfamiliar with the military—but, it didn’t keep even an old veteran like me from enjoying it.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Oliver and Jumpy: 43-45’

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Oliver and Jumpy 43-45 by Werner Stejskal brings young readers more adventures of the elegant tom cat, Oliver, and his kangaroo companion, Jumpy, that are sure to delight. Oliver and Jumpy go on a magic carpet ride to save a princess, friends give Oliver a great birthday party, and magic berries create problems in three cute stories that can be read to youngsters, and that will teach while they entertain. Your young ones will like them.

These three stories were good, but not quite up to the author’s usual standards, and there were several grammatical glitches. I give it four stars, though, because this is still a book that my grandchildren enjoyed.