Month: November 2017

Review of ‘Terminal Secret’

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A government attorney is murdered on her doorstep in a wealthy DC neighborhood. A senator’s wife approaches a private detective to find out who killed her ex-husband, a disabled army veteran. Two seemingly unrelated cases, the first assigned to DC detective Earl Wallace and his new partner, both by-the-books cops; and the second to lawyer/private eye Dan Lord, a man who makes his own rules in his pursuit of justice. They soon learn that their cases are related and portend even more dead bodies, perhaps their own, if they don’t find the mastermind behind a series of crimes being committed by people who are terminally ill with cancer. The key, Dan discovers, is an old case involving a now-dead drug dealer, but the time to solve it is quickly running out.

Terminal Secret by Mark Gilleo is a high-octane mystery-thriller that uncovers the raw underbelly of our nation’s capital in ways that other novels set in Washington, DC often fail to do. It swings effortlessly from wealthy Georgetown enclaves to the wasteland of Anacostia’s neighborhoods, introducing the reader to the variety of colorful, and sometimes dangerous, denizens of DC’s asphalt jungle.

I give Gilleo four and a half stars for this one.

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Review of ‘Ariana’s Pride’

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Young Lady Ariana, the daughter of an earl, is willful and headstrong. Betrothed to an elderly baron, she accepts it as the fate of a highborn woman. But, when she loses her family in an attack upon the earl’s castle, she must flee for her life. As her destination, she choses the estate of the Baron Frederick, her betrothed, but must rely upon the assistance of the irreverent, but dashing Jeremy, a common stable hand.

During their journey together, the two learn about each other and themselves, and develop a relationship that threatens both.

Ariana’s Pride by Margaret Lake is the first book in a trilogy that is part historical thriller, part medieval romance, with a fascinating cast of characters and, for someone like me, who knows little about England during medieval times, credible sounding.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Regan O’Reilly: Private Investigator’

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Although she comes from a family of cops, in 1942, the only police job open to Regan O’Reilly, or any other woman, is a desk job. So, instead, she becomes a private investigator. As a PI with her own agency, she’s pretty much free to live life on her own terms, until she meets an insurance adjudicator, Mark Harris, a widower with a young son, Patrick, both of whom stir feelings in Regan that she’d rather not have to deal with.

Regan O’Reilly: Private Investigator by Margaret Lake is an interesting novella, although, it’s a bit misnamed. Written in the noir mystery style of the 1940s, it’s an intriguing story, but, it’s a romance story, not really a mystery. Interesting characters, and relatively fast-paced action, it follows Regan as she strives to reconcile her work with her growing feelings for Mark and Patrick, ending on a somewhat unsettled note as she prepares to go off on a hazardous undercover assignment just as she’s about to come to terms with the growing personal relationship.

I’m still unsure about this series, but curious to see what’s next for the heroine. I’ll give this one a provisional four stars.

Review of ‘Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins’

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Murder and mayhem follow Imogen Banks everywhere she goes. Still trying to learn to control her witch powers, under the tutelage of Prince Hank, and worrying about Horace and his minions of the Badlands Army, she sees a trip to the Mermaid Kingdom to cater the wedding party of the Mermaid queen and the Pirate king as a welcome diversion. But, when a member of the mermaid court is found murdered and entangled in a pirate’s net, and a confection from their kitchen is thought to be the murder weapon, Imogen must find the real murderer before she and her friends become fish food.

Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins by Erin Johnson is book three in the Spells and Caramels series, and it builds on the previous two books, but with a refreshing difference. As Imogen and her cohort has to deal with the licentious behavior and secret scandals of the mermaid court, smuggling of illicit substances, and a deadly octopus; while Imogen struggles with her romantic feelings for Hank, who is betrothed to another, and their susceptibility to an intoxicating monster’s brew, this story will hook you from the opening pages until you get to the startling conclusion, when Imogen discovers more secrets from her own past.

This story makes a shift from the relative innocence of the first two volumes, as intimate relationships are explored in a more explicit manner, raising the series from one that appeals to fantasy lovers of all ages to one that is aimed at a more mature audience.

I was attracted to this series from the beginning, but am now irrevocably hooked. I received a free copy of this book.

It promises a lot from the opening, and delivers on every page.

Review of ‘Loving Laykin’

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Loving Lakyn by Charlotte Reagan is a profoundly disturbing story—but, in a negative way, only if you have a mind that’s closed to the realities of life. The story of teen, Lakyn James, struggling with his sexual orientation with parents who are unable to accept it, a victim of abuse and bullying who attempts suicide, is addicted to drugs, and is struggling to find his own identity. While this story is an example of extremes, it is probably not far off the mark in its depiction of what young people go through in a society that has yet to come to terms with the definitions of sexuality, in which bureaucracies often allow those who are ‘different’ to fall through the cracks or become invisible.

As you read this story, though, one things rings through loud and clear, one must learn to love oneself before the love of others can be recognized. Yes, it is a disturbing book, but in a way that we all need to be disturbed. It is a wake-up call, reminding us that everyone matters.

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

Review of ‘The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy-Volume Three’

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Writing is hard work. But, getting published, and getting your book read is even harder. The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, Volume Three: The Author’s Grimoire edited by Valerie Griswold-Ford and Lai Zhang is a comprehensive guide to the networking and self-promotion practices that will help writers, from tyro to experienced, gain maximum exposure. Detailed guidance on approaching publishers and agents is useful for those deciding to go the traditional publishing route, but most helpful in today’s publishing world, are the hints on generating buzz for your work, which is quite useful to independent authors.

I purchased this book from Amazon several years ago, and still refer to it from time to time when I’ve just published a new book, as a reminder of the work that needs to be done to attract readers.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Ghost Gathering’

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The MP-5 Team, a group of special operations specialists unconnected with any government bureaucracy, and working out of a corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas, get word of a ghost gathering, a group of unknown terrorists operating undetected on U.S. soil and planning an operation that will generate thousands of casualties, they pull out all the stops to find the terrorists and foil them. Their only lead is a Christian monastery in northern Iraq, but when they arrive, the abbot is killed, and their only chance to stop the deadly plot lies in the hands of a six-year-old orphan boy, who is also being sought by ISIS for its own nefarious purposes.

Ghost Gathering by M. H. Sargent is a spine tingling thriller that moves with lightning speed from event to event, as the team races the clock against a determined group of terrorists and an international assassin in a high-stakes game which they cannot afford to lose.

A stunning cast of characters, chilling scenarios, and high-tech plots will keep you flipping pages, pulse racing, until the end. While I’m not usually a fan of cliff hanger endings, I was struck at how the author managed to tie up loose ends, give a satisfying conclusion to the main plot, and still leave a question mark hanging over our heroes at the end, setting things up for an equally thrilling sequel.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Brutal Bedtime Stories’

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If you like your horror raw and uncensored, you’ll love Brutal Bedtime Stores: A Supernatural Horror Story Collection. An anthology of dozens of cutting-edge, macabre stories by David Maloney, Tobias Wade, Ha-yong Bak, and Kyle Alexander that will curl the hairs on your arm and send chills up and down your spine. These are stories of psychopaths, ghosts, and ghouls, the work of some really twisted minds; not for the sensitive or faint-hearted—you’ll love it.

I give this collection five stars.

Review of ‘Northern eX’

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Kicked off the Leeds police force after 18 years of service, ex-cop Vince McNulty spends his time visiting massage parlors where he’d formerly worked undercover. When young girls from the parlors start turning up missing, his life takes a fateful turn, and then, when one of them is found dead, thought to have been killed by a regular customer, he becomes the number-one suspect.

Northern eX by Colin Campbell is a mystery in the style of 50s pulp fiction, with a totally flawed hero who is willing to bend the rules in the pursuit of justice, and thoroughly villainous villains. This one pulls the reader deep into the murky underbelly of the city and doesn’t let go until the conclusion.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Plant Lady Cracks a Nut’

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The plant lady, Eden Tywyn, is still trying to escape her past. Recuperating from her adventures in finding out who was behind sabotage at the mall where she works in Packard Falls, she’s pulled into yet another adventure by her new BFF, Ronnie Landau. When strange things start happening, she’s unsure if it’s a blast from her past, or something even more sinister.

The Plant Lady Cracks a Nut is Gwen Pankhurst’s second book in the Plant Lady series, and it’s just as wacky as book one. Eden and her band of oddball friends (two- and four-legged) are forced to deal with efforts to bring development to the peaceful oasis of Packard Falls, while Eden continues to cope with the unwanted attention of her maybe not dead husband’s family.

Humorous and scary at the same time, this is great fireside reading. I received a free copy of this book, and I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘How to Write a Novel the Easy Way’

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Because I know that a lot of the readers of these reviews are authors themselves, and because, as a writer, I happen to have a large collection of books on writing, I’ve decided to review some of them as a service to my readers. One of my favorite how-to books, and one that has been in my library for some time, is How to Write a Novel the Easy Way by Jim Driver with Jack Davies.

A brief book by an author, editor, and publisher in the UK, this book discusses the pulp fiction method of writing, harking back to the 50s and 60s, the heyday of pulp fiction, when authors cranked out book after book, not exactly literary fiction, but well-crafted stories for the broadest possible audience. The authors describe easy-to-apply methods for writing stories that will entertain readers, which, at the end of the day is what we writers really want to do.

From character development to outlining and writing your book, you will find this a handy reference for your own shelves. They take the mystery out of mystery writing, and put the romance in your bodice-rippers. I purchased this book from Amazon so long ago, it’s no longer listed in my purchases. While I spend most of my time writing, or reading books for review, these days, I hadn’t picked it up in a long time, but when I did, I wasn’t surprised to find that there were still things I could learn from it.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Basic Cartooning’

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If you like doodling and drawing cartoons, you might benefit from some basic instructions. Basic Cartooning by Maury Aaseng, follows the methods developed 90 years ago by artist, Walter Foster, at his home in Laguna Beach, California. It begins with materials and moves on to the basic shapes needed to make cartoons. Included is information on using digital techniques, not available during Foster’s time, and the process for developing panels and strips.

As useful as it is for beginners, I also found it a good refresher myself, to build on the techniques I developed during my time as a newspaper editorial cartoonist in the 1970s. This one is a must for your art reference library.

I’ve had this book in my own reference library for quite some time. Lately, I’ve been dabbling in my studio, working on some humorous illustrations for my books, and I came across it. I realized that I’d never reviewed this one, and decided it would be useful for budding artists out there to know about.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Watercolor Made Easy: 30-Minute Landscapes’

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Watercolor Made Easy: 30-Minute Landscapes by Paul Talbot-Greaves is a comprehensive guide to painting landscapes in watercolor, compositions that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. This handy how-to book is useful for beginners and experienced painters alike, and will add new life to your art.

I purchased this book from Amazon several years ago, and have read it several times. I finally decided to post a review to let other artists know of this valuable book.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Painting Water in Watercolour’

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Whether you’re a beginning artist, or a more experienced one who wants to expand your techniques, Painting Water in Watercolour by Terry Harrison is a must-have for your art reference library. Harrison offers a cookbook of detailed techniques for painting any water scene, from puddles in a country lane to a raging surf. The series of 30-minute exercises and the step-by-step projects at the end of the book will have you painting fantastic marine scenes in no time.

I give Harrison five stars for an amazingly effective book.

‘Vixen’ nominated for Readers Choice Award

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Vixen  I am excited to announce that my novel, Vixen, has been nominated for the Readers Choice Award in the Historical Fiction Category. I encourage all of my readers to go to www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-voting/ and go to category 14 (Historical Fiction) and vote for it. Vixen can be found near the bottom of the category page. Your vote will be greatly appreciated. Again, a reminder, go to    www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-voting/ and vote.

Review of ‘Writing at Work’

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Writing at Work: Professional Writing Skills for People on the Job by Edward L. Smith and Stephen A. Bernhardt is a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to improve writing skills at work. It covers everything from grammar to improving the appearance of your writing. I use this book in connection with a summer writing workshop on professional writing that I conduct for select college seniors interested in careers in foreign affairs. I’ve found it to be a handy guide, in conjunction with a style guide, to assist students in the task of improving their writing skills.

Whether used for teaching others, or as an individual self-help guide, for the young professional, this book should have a prominent place in the reference library.

I give this handy reference five stars.

Review of ‘Not Before Midnight’

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Lake County, Oregon Sheriff Bud Blair is in the dumps. His dog, Molly, is dying, and Nancy Sixkiller, his fiancée, has dumped him. When his friend and old partner, Del BeBe, needs his help to protect a preacher who is being targeted by Muslim radicals, he comes back to life. Bullets fly and emotions are aroused as Bud and Del team up with the new and old women in their lives, and have to deal with FBI agents (some crooked) and a rogue biker gang bent on murder.

 

Not Before Midnight by Rod Collins is the fifth book in the Sheriff Bud Blair series, and it is a great read if you want to be entertained with a fast-paced mystery that combines epic descriptions of Oregon’s  high country, old-west attitudes, and exciting gunfights.

 

I received a free copy of this book, and give it a resounding four stars for the sheer entertainment value.

Review of ‘L-2011’

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In the summer of 2011, riots broke out in London in response to the police shooting of a young black man under questionable circumstances. As the riots continue, two on-line personalities take to the airwaves, battling for the future of the city. Chester George, a masked man whose identity is unknown, uses YouTube to call for general anarchy by the ‘real’ citizens against corrupt authority, while Sadie Hobbs, a controversial blogger and TV reality star calls for the ‘normal’ citizens to rise up and take the city back from the ‘feral’ thugs.

While the shooting incident and subsequent rioting are actual events, from that point on, L-2011 by Mark Gillespie, is pure alternate history. What if, it asks, the riots never stopped? It then follows events, from a national level to the viewpoint of Mack Walker, a 16-year-old Scot, newly arrived in London from Edinburgh, as he gets caught up in the course of events and joins the crowd for the final showdown that will determine the fate of a nation.

A twisted tale, L-2011 not only shows the sometimes-corrosive effect of social media, but delves into the psychological state of those affected. A chilling story that will cause you to think about the current state of the world we live in, and ask yourself, ‘what if this is not fiction, but reality waiting to happen?

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Extreme Heat Warning’

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FBI agents Roger Dance and Paul Casey must reopen what they thought was a closed case. Killers, James Devon and William Patterson, with high-level help, have escaped on the eve of their trials, and their trail leads to the teeming streets and steaming swamps in and around New Orleans. The two agents, with the help of a band of angels, must brave voodoo, corruption, and doubt as they pursue two of the deadliest perps they’ve ever encountered.

Extreme Heat Warning by Vicki Graybosch, et al follows them as they cope with things they were never taught at Quantico. This is book 2 of the Shallow End Gals series, and I have to admit the plot is fascinating. The prose, however, tends to choppiness, and the switches from third to first person are confusing at first. A bit too much telling, and not enough showing for a story that begs to be ‘shown,’ with the exotic locales and quirky characters—main and supporting.

I worked my way through it, and, unfortunately, found the ending a bit too murky for my taste. I give this one three stars, but must admit, it does show promise.

‘Vixen’ Nominated for 2017 Readers Choice Award

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Vixen  I am excited to announce that my historical novel, Vixen, has been nominated for the 2017 Readers Choice Award in the Historical Fiction category. Please go to www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-vote/ and cast your vote. It will be greatly appreciated.