Month: March 2017

Review of ‘Deadly Love’

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Killed during a theater audition in Beijing five years ago, Jasmine Huang is determined to know just who killed her. Everyone thinks it was her lover, Chris, but Jasmine’s not sure, and as a ‘spirit,’ she seeks the help of her dead father, Liang’s, spirit to find the truth. Jasmine travels from Beijing to Vancouver’s Chinatown in her search and slowly, the truth emerges; but it wasn’t what she expected.

Deadly Love by Wesley Robert Lowe is paranormal urban fantasy that takes the reader through time, beginning with Jasmine’s grandfather, Guy Wong, and then follows the family’s history from Canada to China and back in a madcap romp that explores the history of Chinese culture and myth and its intersection with the West.

This was an enjoyable read, but there were a number of proofreading issues that in places disrupted the reading experience. Reflecting the author’s screenwriting background, it was very visual in its impact, and as I said, enjoyable—glitches and all. I give it three and a half stars.

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Review of ‘Nightscream’

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FBI Agent Cody Thomas takes a week off to return to his hometown of Big Bear to decompress. Jilly Reid left her high-pressure job as a homicide detective in San Bernadino to get away from death and her cheating husband. She returned to Big Bear and became a deputy sheriff, happy in a small town where nothing really bad ever happens. Then, a fisherman makes a frantic 911 call, excitedly explaining that he’s found several women’s bodies attached to cinder blocks at the bottom of the lake.

Suddenly, life in Big Bear takes a turn for the worse as they realize that there’s a serial killer on the loose, and to complicate matters even more, when Cody and Jilly begin investigating the case, the killer puts them in the crosshairs. In the meantime, Cody’s brother and his girlfriend join him in Big Bear, and the girlfriend’s sister is reported to be in the clutches of a suspected pedophile who is angling to get his hands on the sister’s young daughters.

Both cases are time-sensitive, with lives hanging in the balance.

Nightscream by Morgan Hannah MacDonald is the second book in the Thomas Family mystery series. The action is non-stop, and the stakes couldn’t be higher as more women end up dead or mutilated and serious attempts are made on Jilly’s life. The reader is kept in suspense as both perpetrators unfold their fiendish schemes. The ending hits you like a haymaker out of the dark, making this a worthwhile read.

I received a free copy of this book.

Four stars.

Review of ‘The Order of St. Michael’

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Bud Hutchins, an eccentric genius, has invented a machine that allows people to teleport. Now, someone has stolen it, and the key to its recovery is the grisly murder of a monk who belonged to an order formed to keep evil spirits at bay.

In J. B. Michaels’, The Order of St. Michael, Hutchins travels Salem’s forests to Louisiana’s bayous to the Welsh countryside, fighting witches, zombies, and monsters along the way, in his quest to retrieve his machine before it’s used to create total chaos.

An entertaining supernatural mystery, and though the prose is a bit choppy and monotonous in places, was an enjoyable read.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘The Protector’

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When a social worker is found dead at the bottom of the stairs at her office building with Scrabble letters stuffed in her mouth, Detective Sydney Valentine gets on the case, and the Scrabble letters tell her this is not a normal case. Soon, there are more bodies, a juvenile court judge and a single mother, indicate a sinister tie to child protective services. The case gets even stickier when Sydney and her sister become targets for the killer.

The Protector by Danielle Lenee Davis is the first book in the Sydney Valentine mystery series. A well-plotted story, the narrative is a bit monotonous in places. The characters, though, are extremely well-developed, especially the irreverent Sydney.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this one three and a half stars.

Review of ‘One Plus One’

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The battle between the forces of light and dark continues. For Kyle Fasano, a millionth, and Napoleon Vila, a police detective who voluntarily went to hell in an effort to save Fasano, it’s a time for making the choice between love and heaven—the choice that each makes will surprise you. While these two men struggle through hell with the Gray Man, Vila’s partner, Detective Evan Parker, must fight against the forces of evil who have come through the thin veil that separates this world from the next; a struggle that is complicated by the fact that he’s one of a few mortals aware of the opening rift.

One Plus One by Tony Faggioli is the concluding book in a fascinating trilogy that explores the meaning of theology, belief, and love. A chilling read that will make you question the premise of unquestioning faith like no other.

I received a free copy of this book.

Four stars.

Review of ‘Eric Olafson: Space Pirate’

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Eric Olafson, from the traditional Viking world of Nilfeheim, left his home world to fulfill his dream of becoming a space ship captain. He joined the space fleet of the United Stars of the Planets and began an adventure that took him to some of the farthest stars. When he’s kidnapped and taken to a lawless planet, he finds himself embroiled in an ancient conflict that will test him to his very limits.

Eric Olafson: Space Pirate by Vanessa Ravencroft is a young adult space adventure a la ‘Space Cadets,’ packed with interesting and esoteric characters and taking place in worlds that could only be created by an author who has dreamed of venturing into universes unknown. The action is non-stop. The only criticism of this book is the complexity of the situations Olafson finds himself in—sometimes switches are so abrupt, I had to go back and re-read several paragraphs to reorient myself. That having been said, it was still an entertaining read; perfect for teen and young adult sci-fi fans, or fans-to-be.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Nobel Peace Prize’

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A completely undistinguished employee of a green startup company, William Wright gets a call informing him that he has been selected to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He thinks that this is a prank set up by his friend, and that it will not change his life, but what follows is a complicated journey through the past, with commentary on politics, capitalism, music, and a host of other things, with Wright and his family central to each tale.

Nobel Peace Prize by D. Otter is a piece of experimental fiction that explores life, politics, and just about everything else one can imagine.

If you like fiction that challenges your thinking, you just might like this book. I had some problems with the e-book version due to spacing issues and confusion in dialogue, with more than one character speaking in the same paragraph. The author has a handy way with words, and this is adequate experimental fiction, if a bit unfocused. With some editing attention to the e-book version, which is what most readers will probably choose nowadays, it would be four stars. I, though, can only give it three.

Review of ‘Unexpected Rewards’

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Olivia Davenport wants nothing more than to continue her training as a knight. So enamored is she of her martial pursuits, she even disguised herself as a boy to join in a campaign against the king’s enemies, during which time she distinguished herself in battle, and added a new love—she and Prince Liam fell for each other. Her reward, though, was unexpected, and unwelcome; the king has assigned her to be a lady in waiting for the queen. Doubtful that she’ll be able to comport herself properly in the protocol regime of the palace, Olivia nonetheless endeavors to fit in. But, intrigue awaits her. When Niobe, the king’s seer, predicts that an attempt will be made on his life when spring comes, Olivia finds herself deep into a deadly conspiracy.

Unexpected Rewards by Jane McGarry is a fast-paced read as the author takes us on a perilous journey into palace intrigue, both deadly and petty. Olivia is a strong female character who refuses to compromise her principles for the pampered life of a princess. An interesting story, but for the switching between past and present tense in the early chapters, which is a bit jarring and disruptive. The supporting characters, heroes as well as villains, are interesting and well-developed.

This author shows promise. I give this second book in the series three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Fade to Black’

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Jeff Grobnagger is a 27-year-old slacker who wants nothing more than to be left alone. His problem, though, is that he keeps blacking out at the most inopportune times and having the same dream; he’s strung upside down in an alley and a hooded man keeps killing him—many times in fact.

Jeff meets mustachioed Glenn whose daughter, who was involved with some arcane cult, is missing, and Louise, a PI who is investigating the various cults interested in astral projection among other things. To further complicate matters, Jeff learns that someone is interested in him because of his dreams, and they just might be trying to kill him for real.

Fade to Black is book one in the Awake in the Dark series by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus. This is a book that defies genre categorization. It has elements of the paranormal—actually, more the para-abnormal—mystery, and macabre humor. The characters are captivating, and the plot doesn’t unfold; rather it folds and refolds in a most byzantine way, leaving you wondering just what the heck is going on. You reach the end, and you’re still not sure what just happened, only that you thoroughly enjoyed it.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Timeless Moments’

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It’s 2014, and Jack Vine has just moved into an old house in Lynchburg, VA, a house that he’s always coveted. One morning, he spots a young woman crying in his garden. When he confronts her, she accuses him of being an invader in her house, dashes inside, and disappears.

In 1917, Jewel Wiltshire is trapped in marriage to an abusive, controlling husband. She begins to fear for her life, and after she finds that she’s pregnant, she decides to run away, which puts her on a collision course with her murderous husband. Alone in her garden one morning, she is confronted by a strange young man who claims that he lives in her house, and then he disappears.

There then begins a strange communication between Jack and Jewel across time, which brings endangers not only Jewel’s life, but the lives of her unborn child and her devoted servants.

Timeless Moments by Michelle L. Kidd is a first novel that was selected for publication in the Kindle Scout program. The author does a fantastic job of weaving not just two, but three time streams together in a mystery that will capture the reader’s interest from page one and hold it until the stunning finale. Kidd is a storyteller who shows a lot of promise for the future.

A great five-star read!

Review of ‘A Poisonous City’

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When the 81-year-old former head of Amsterdam’s Murder Brigade is found dead, the uncompromising and unconventional DCI Jac Roggeveen and her team are assigned to investigate. When they begin peeling back the murky layers of the victim’s life, they find maggots crawling from the heart of the city, and people in high places who are determined that the truth remain hidden.

A Poisonous City by Markey reveals the dark underbelly of Amsterdam as Jac and her people pursue justice despite overwhelmingly high odds and high-level resistance. This book contains lots of in depth historical information about Amsterdam, and has a fascinating main character, but it is a bit choppy, with more telling than showing. More action and less narration would make it a much better read, as would more back story about Jac, a uniquely intriguing character.

I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Whisper He Might Hear You’

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Manhattan’s finest are puzzled by eight killings. Though the victims are seemingly unrelated victims, chief of detectives, Bill Dacey, is convinced they are the work of a single killer. He seeks the assistance of noted criminologist Kate Berman and her ME husband, Josh, to track down the killer, a wealthy, smart, but vicious killer.

Whisper He Might Hear You by William Appel is a chilling thriller that follows this indomitable trio as they race against time to stop a demented serial killer before the list of victims grows any longer.

Even though the killer’s identity is known from the early chapters, the author still manages to keep the reader guessing until the very end.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘By Virtue Fall’

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By Virtue Fall by Mark Wooden is an action-laden urban fantasy; a dark version of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ only in this case the vampire is the hero.

Adrianna is a vampire assassin on a quest to avenge the death of her parents and the corruption of her younger sister. In order to achieve her goal, though, she must risk becoming as evil as the evil she seeks to defeat. An interesting story that combines elements of urban fantasy and history, replete with fight scenes that will appeal to cinema lovers, this book makes good escapist reading.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it a shade below four stars, rounded up.

Review of ‘Tiger Beetle at Kendallwood’

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Marcy Hankin lives in a small Oklahoma town where football is king and teen girls worry about makeup and boyfriends—especially her twin sister. Marcy, on the other hand, loves bugs. In fact, she wants to be an entomologist, which has earned her the nickname Bug Brain. When Spence Caldwell, a senior who was a football star in the big city, comes to town to live in the old Kendallwood estate, whose grounds are Marcy’s best bug hunting ground, her world is turned on its ear.

Tiger Beetle at Kendallwood is an e-book reissue of Norma Jean Lutz’s young adult romance novel, the second in a series being put out in e-book format. It follows the developing relationship between Marcy and Spence, two outcasts in a society that demands conformity. It could have been proofread better, especially in the earlier chapters, but was an entertaining read.

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

Review of ‘Ash’

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Asher Benson, a veteran of the war in Iraq, after being injured by an IED developed the ability to ‘read’ minds. Far from being a gift, his ability is a curse, and forces him to withdraw from human contact and need to deaden his senses with alcohol to make it through the day.

When a high-level politician kills himself on national TV, and a group of government employees all commit suicide, Asher finds himself hunted by a host of government agencies. With the aid of his ex-army buddy turned police detective, Asher goes on the run. While the government chases him, he is chasing a demented proxy killer who invades others’ minds.

Ash by Jason Brant is a really fast-paced thriller that, along with providing lots of bloody action, explores the impact of extended combat tours, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury in our veterans. All in all, not a bad read if a bit predictable.

I received this book as a gift.

I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Aim True, My Brothers’

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When a rogue Hamas terrorist sets out to assassinate the U.S. President, no one believes it possible. Unconventional FBI counterterrorism agent, Eddie Barnett, acting on information from his friend, Moustapha Khalid, chief of security at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, must race against time to stop this deadly plot. As unlikely as these two are as allies, when a Mossad agent shows up to join them, Barnett must fight as hard to keep his team together as to find and stop the terrorist.

Aim True, My Brothers by William F. Brown is a no-holds-barred action thriller that could very well have been ripped from the headlines as it follows the action from the Mideast to Virginia’s Tidewater region. Brown builds the action like a master architect or choreographer and sends his characters on stage for a danse macabre that will set your heart pounding and keep your interest from the first page.

I only have one criticism of the book—well, actually, not the book itself, but the book description. It’s billed as an ‘Eddie Rankin’ FBI counter terror thriller, and the description mentions Eddie Rankin as the main character, but we’re introduced to Eddie ‘Barnett’ in the first chapter. A minor flaw, but it did have me flummoxed for several pages.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Murder at the Jolly Jester’

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As the live-in manager of the Jolly Jester, Roland Rowntree lives an almost normal life. Normal, that is, until his barman, Sam, interrupts his morning routine to inform that there’s a dead body in the bar. Old Pete, one of the Jolly Jester’s regulars, is sitting in a back booth with a machete in his head, and the only viable suspect is Roland. Now, he knows he’s innocent, but no one else seems to believe him, so he’s left with nothing to do but solve the crime himself. He plunges his somewhat overweight body into the case, and with the help of the mysterious Miriam begins to uncover age-old secrets of the small village of Duckley that some rather dangerous people want to keep hidden.

Murder at the Jolly Jester by Ian Thompson is a droll mystery, the first in what promises to be an interesting series featuring the hapless Roland Rowntree. British writers excel in the cozy mystery, and Thompson has added a new wrinkle—humor. A nice fireside read.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this opening salvo in the series four stars.