Month: December 2017

Review of ‘Abduction: The Minivan Murders’

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Abduction: The Minivan Murders by R.J. Parker is the true story of James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud, a couple of meth-heads who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a number of young women from Sacramento, California to Reno, Nevada, even killing one and dumping her body.

A chilling story of serial rapists and murderers, the book fails, however, to live up to the hype or the cover. There is too much repetition, going over points repeatedly that could well be addressed once and done—and a lot of it is devoted to the killing spree of two other serial rapist-killers, who apparently were the motivation for Daveggio and Michaud.

An interesting book, that with less repetition, and without the hype—for example, the two were only convicted of one murder, and while they might, if not caught, have killed others, there is no evidence that they killed more than the one for whose death they were convicted.

I give this one three stars. Interesting subject, just not as well executed as I would expect from this author.

Review of ‘P.I. Penguin and the Case of the Christmas Lights’

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P.I. Penguin takes a break from decorating his house for Christmas to find out how to improve his decorations. During his journey, he discovers that the secret to a truly decorative holiday is the sharing.

P.I. Penguin and the Case of the Christmas Lights by Bec J. Smith is a delightful children’s reader, with illustrations by Indonesian artist, Adit Galih. Though in Australian English, it nonetheless is still a great way to introduce young American readers to the beauty of language.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘Fly Like an Eagle’

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In Philadelphia, in 1824, Samantha Ronaldson’s father wants her to marry his older business partner in order to keep his industrial secrets in the family. Samantha, on the other hand, only wants the freedom to explore science, and she allies herself with the partner’s half-Indian son, Eagle, and accompanies him on a journey through the Flow, back and forth through time on an amazing journey of discovery.

Fly Like an Eagle by S.B.K. Burns is a difficult book to categorize. A steam punk, sci-fi novel, it has elements of the paranormal, as well as steamy romance, that offers a bit of everything for lovers of a variety of genres. A tantalizing romp that challenges historical and scientific truths, it explores the boundaries between science and spirituality in a thoroughly entertaining story that will grab and hold your attention from the first page to the last.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Declaration of Liberty’

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When police detective Brad Hamilton finds an old letter at a murder scene, he has to call on history professor, Connie Cobb, and her sister, Rebecca, for help. The letter, which refers to the famous Mecklenburg Declaration, a declaration of independence from England by the government of Mecklenburg, NC, supposedly dated two years before the Declaration of Independence, suspicion falls on historical document validators in the area who might have wanted to take it from the victim.

Declaration of Liberty by Lisa Walker is the second novel in the Cobb Sisters mystery series, that follows Connie, Rebecca, and Brad as they undertake two lines of investigation; one to try to determine the identity of the killer, and the other to determine the authenticity of the letter. While it contains interesting historical information, including historical flashbacks relating to the individuals mentioned in the letter, and police procedure as Brad and his fellow officers trace the victim’s movements in the days before his murder, the pacing of the narrative is rather monotonous, and the flashbacks misleading—and, called into question by the final test of the document’s authenticity.

Although an interesting story with an interesting cast of characters, and not too bad, it could have been much better without the flashbacks.

I give the author three stars for the promise shown.

Review of ‘Flapjack’

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Roger Murphy and Dan Galveston decide to chuck their mind-numbing cubicle jobs and start their own investigation agency. Using often questionable tactics, they succeed in getting ever higher-paying jobs, until a computer hack on behalf of a toy company plunges them into a job that threatens not only their livelihoods, but their lives. A seemingly simple computer break-and-enter job turns up a connection to a shady security company that Galveston once worked for, and a plot to manipulate the world’s energy supplies, taking our erstwhile heroes on a chaotic journey to the far corners of the globe as they struggle to stay one step ahead of forces that threaten to eliminate them.

Flapjack by Daniel Ganninger is the first book in the Icarus Case Files series. The madcap adventures of two sometimes bumbling detectives who go up against a determined band of bad guys, relying on their wits—and a lot of luck—to prevail. There are a few rough spots, like the main character’s name being changed momentarily early in the book—a problem often encountered in a story with a large list of characters—but, despite a few proofreading glitches, it’ll keep you entertained until the end.

I give this premiere story three and a half stars, with the feeling that it’ll only get better with time.

Review of ‘Illegal’

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September 11, 2001 saw a resurgence in the United States of nationalism (the belief that one’s country is better than all others), thinly disguised as patriotism (love of one’s country), which has, since the 2016 elections, only grown worse. Illegal by John Dennehy is a memoir by a young American, following the author’s journey of discovery, beginning with the reelection of George Bush to his second term, when Dennehy decided to leave his home country to find true meaning in his life.

In Ecuador, a country in the throes of profound political change, Dennehy meets Lucia, an activist, and begins to discover the meaning of national and personal identity; a journey that begins and ends at the same place. Along the way, the author offers insights into the inconsistencies that exist in an increasingly globalized world that recognizes the free flow of money, goods, and ideas, while at the same time, restricting the movement of people.

A compelling story of the meaning of culture and nationality, and how one person learns to cope with them. A must-read for anyone who wants to begin to make sense of a world that sometimes seems to be going mad.

I give Dennehy five stars for this one.

Reveiw of ‘Family Matters’

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After her aunt’s funeral, Gracie Andersen’s alcoholic uncle gives her an odd gift—a collection of old books that includes the diary of her cousin who had been killed in a hit and run accident 20 years earlier. It is clear to her that he wants her to find the truth of the ‘accident,’ but before she can get more details from him, he’s killed in a suspicious ‘accident.’ To add to her troubles, her dog kennel is suffering one tragedy after another, and someone wants her to stop prying into the past; chief among them, her annoying cousin, Isabel.

Family Matters by Laurinda Wallace is an interesting cozy mystery that follows Gracie as she begins to uncover family secrets that Isabel wants to keep hidden. She and Isabel have never gotten along, but she’s shocked to learn that, not only is Isabel somehow involved in the 20-year-old death, but the death of her uncle as well. The closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her life becomes, until the case reaches a conclusion that will come as a complete surprise.

A well plotted mystery, but the author could have done a better job of pacing, rather than the rather monotonous rhythm throughout. Not a bad first book, that I give three and a half stars. The author shows promise.

Happy holidays to everyone.

Review of ‘Death and the Assassin’s Blade’

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DI Keith Tremayne and his partner, DS Clare Yarwood are attending a local theatrical group’s performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ When the actor portraying Caesar is stabbed in Act 3, and the body is removed from the stage, little do the two cops know that they have just witnessed an actual murder. There were seven actors on the stage, and Tremayne soon realizes that two of them are killers, but which two? When more members of the troupe die, the stakes are pushed up, and he and Yarwood have to work overtime to nab the killers before even more people die.

Death and the Assassin’s Blade by Phillip Strang is a tense thriller. Clues abound, as do suspects, but it takes some dogged police work, and lots of luck to catch the killers. As you follow along, you’ll be subject to the same misdirection as our protagonists, and, in the end, be just as surprised as they are.

A great read for a cold winter’s day. I received a free copy of this book. I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘They Came With the Snow’

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A strange blast in a small college town triggers a blizzard, which is followed by an infestation of ‘crabs,’ Curious at first, they soon turn deadly. College professor, Dominic Daniels, and a small group of survivors must decide whether to try to stick it out in their tenuous safe havens, or make a run for it and contend with the ‘monsters,’ who came with the snow.

They Came With the Snow by Christopher Coleman is a short horror story that stretches the limits of the imagination. Leaving much to the reader’s imagination, it is a shocking judgment of government overreach gone too far. A book that can, mercifully, be read in about half an hour, and one that you will long remember. No pun intended, but this one will chill you to your core.

I give it four stars.

The holidays in my neighborhood

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DSCF5150  I live in a diverse neighborhood, and it’s never more apparent than during the winter holidays. Some of my neighbors don’t celebrate, some go for the minimalist look, and some go hog to the wall.  I don’t celebrate, but the wife does, and now that we have grandchildren, it’s kind of obligatory. The wife did a tree and streamers for a while, but with just the two of us, it got kinda boring, so she’s now restricting the decoration to a single, simple wreath on the door, and we go to our daughter’s house for the other stuff.

What I do like, though, is going around the neighborhood just before December 25 and snapping photos of some of the more notable displays. I share a couple of them with you.

 

 

Review of ‘Stranger’

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Through stubbornness and utter disregard for others, Gavin Roy turned an isolated valley in New Mexico into one of the richest mining and ranching areas in the Old West. He bent everyone, man or woman, to his will—or destroyed them—except for his rebellious son, Clay, and the beautiful woman from New York that he took to his bed after the death of Clay’s mother.

Stranger by acclaimed author Clifford Irving is an epic tale of the western frontier, and the men and women who made it great, told from the point of view of one dysfunctional family and their relationships—among themselves, with others around them, and with the land itself.

Irving, who served 2-1/2 years in prison for his faked autobiography of Howard Hughes, is in fine form in this tale of the Old West with a slightly different take on a beloved genre. There are no white hats versus black hats, and the hero doesn’t kiss his horse and ride off into the sunset. In the real west, people loved and hated, lived and died, and life was sometimes short and brutal, and true to his style, Irving pulls no punches.

Review of ‘Turn or Burn’

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Burned out and suffering from PTSD, former Green Beret and security contractor, Harper Knox has retired to his parents’ farm to grow grapes and get his life back together. His old comrade, Ted, lures him back into the fold with an offer of a security job, protecting a scientist involved in a controversial AI conference in Seattle. A routine protection job turns deadly when Ted’s killed, along with the two assailants, former prostitutes with a strange symbol burned into their bodies.

Harper and Ted’s cousin, Italian mercenary, Francesca Daly, seeking answers, stumble into a plot that threatens more loss of life, including their own, while dealing with the sparks that fly between them.

Turn or Burn by Boo Walker is a chilling thriller that looks at domestic terrorism and dangerous religious fundamentalism in our midst, a phenomenon that is every bit as deadly as international terrorism, but often not acknowledged. Compelling, and believable, characters and spine-tingling action on every page. You can’t put it down.

I give 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.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. Because of the choppy prose, I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Murder in the Mind’

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Called to an isolated max-security hospital for the criminally insane, DI Skelgill catches the eye of a notorious female serial killer. When the killer, a nurse who was accused of killing scores of her patients, escapes, taking her psychologist with her, Skelgill and his crew undertake a plodding, systematic chase, culminating in a surprise ending that caught me completely unawares.

Murder in the Mind by Bruce Beckwith is a classic British murder mystery, written in an almost dry, nonchalant style—matching the principal protagonist’s personality—with plenty of red herrings and wry observations. It starts slow, as British mysteries are prone to do, but keeps moving relentlessly until the good guys prevail, and the bad ones are put where they belong.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Murder is the Only Option’

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When the manager of a homeless shelter is murdered, DCI Isaac Cook and his team are in search of Big Greg, a mysterious homeless man who doesn’t fit the normal pattern of a street person. When more people die, they learn that Big Greg has a secret and a mission, and the intelligence to pull it off right under their noses. To add to Cook’s misery, when a Member of Parliament becomes one of the killer’s victims, the pressure from above threatens to derail his investigation.

Murder is the Only Option by Phillip Strang is another offering in the DCI Cook series. Fascinating characters and convoluted plots, against the backdrop of a modest sized English city, will grab and hold your interest on every page.

Dat Isaac, he one sharp copper, mon! I received a free copy of this book, and I give it four stars.

Winter is coming…

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DV Berkom Books

Okay, well, it’s pretty much already here where I live.  I almost biffed it on the ice today on my walk. But the sky is clear and the sun is gorgeous, so I’ll take it! 

Today I wanted to let y’all know about some special deals just in time for the holidays:

cover for Serial Date

First up, Michael over at Free Kindle Books and Tips is running a contest for signed paperbacks (the first Leine Basso thriller, SERIAL DATE, is included in the lineup) and a new Kindle Paperwhite.  There are some amazing reads by fabulous authors, including M.A. Comley and Debra Burroughs.Click here to enter. (contest ends Friday, 8 Dec.)

Next, 50 fast-paced, page-turning thrillers and a brand new eReader are up for grabs over at Booksweeps. (And you get free ebooks just for entering, so a great deal all the way around). An e-copy of the latest Leine…

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New Book Review Schedule for 2018

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Throughout 2017, I have been doing a book review per day. I will end the year with a total of 365 reviews, which, when added to the reading I do just for pleasure, will mean that I will have read over 400 books this year. It’s been fun, and educational, but the press of other writing and non-writing projects have taken their toll. When I did my annual eye exam in late-November 2017, I was informed that, while my distance vision had improved, my lack of binocular vision, due to a childhood accident, meant that I’ve been reading with only one eye. Even with store-bought readers, that one eye was just reading enlarged text. I was given prescription reading glasses, which, to my surprise has made quite a difference. What it means, though, is that I need now to use reading glasses, not just for reading books, but when I’m on the computer as well.

Because of this, I have decided to set a new reading and reviewing schedule for 2018. Beginning in January 2018, I will only do one book review per week on this site. I still have to do a lot of reading as I research my own books, and I’d like my eyes to be able to reach the end of next year without any further degradation of visual acuity.

Thanks to all my readers who have reacted to my daily reviews, and here’s hoping you’ll keep reading the reduced schedule.

Review of ‘Fall of the Six’

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After harrowing adventures on a variety of dysfunctional worlds, and epic battles with Marcus’s MM army, the Preston Six find themselves separated; three trapped in an alternate Los Angeles overrun by zombies, while the remaining three valiantly struggle to find and rescue them. In the meantime, Harris has left them behind as he makes a last-ditch effort to bring Marcus down. While the three endure immense hardships on their journey to LA, Harris finds desolation at every stop.

Fall of the Six by Matt Ryan, the third book in the Preston Six series, continues the adventures of six children, part of a bizarre experiment, born on the same day, and bound together by secrets that they struggle in vain to learn. While the battles are the same as in the first two books, readers will learn of the changes in the six as they learn more about each other, and themselves.

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

Review of ‘Inside Moves’

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Best-selling novelist Gareth Wainwright is injured in a terrible auto crash. He wakes up at UCLA Medical Center with no memory of what happened, or who he is. Released from the hospital after a month, he begins the painful process of recovering his memory and his life. He’s learned his name, and that he has a wife—who he cannot remember—who was with him at the time of the crash, but who has now disappeared. Lacey Kinkaid Wainwright, Gareth’s new bride, is an attorney, who, after the crash, finds herself a prisoner of someone from her past, a past that she has kept hidden from Gareth.

Inside Moves by Walter Danley is a complex thriller that moves back and forth in time, and from place to place and character to character, as Lacey tries to survive her captor’s deadly intentions, while Gareth, his memory coming back in fits and starts, takes incredibly chances in his effort to find and rescue her.

This book has more threads than a knitting factory, with byzantine relationships and a complex set of plots that the author skillfully weaves together in a conclusion that, while not completely satisfying to the characters involved, will leave you with the feeling that you’ve been treated to a great story.

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

Review of ‘The Bushwhackers’

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During the American Civil War, Confederate irregulars, known as Bushwhackers, operated in all theaters. Striking sometimes behind Union lines, they destroyed supplies, railroad hubs, and other strategic targets in lightning raids that struck terror into their opponents. Some, on the other hand, were little more than roving snipers or assassins, killing Union-sympathizing civilians as well as soldiers, and sometimes using the cover of the war to settle grievances.

The Bushwhackers: Fighting for and Against the Confederate Guerrilla in the American Civil War is an introductory history of these controversial fighters, using primary sources on both sides to explain who they were and why they fought the way they did. Some of the accounts, such as the history of John McCorkle, a soldier who served as a scout for William Quantrill along the Missouri-Kansas border, or the final entry which gives a history of the Younger brothers, two among those who, after the war took to banditry, seem to romanticize these vicious fighters. On the other hand, accounts of some who were on the receiving end of the bushwhackers’ attentions, show that they could also be completely ruthless.

Wherever your sympathies lie on the issue, this is a valuable volume to read, for it lays bare the horrors of the war of brother against brother in the words of participants like no other history book in my memory has done. Think of them as romantic behind-the-lines heroes or bloodthirsty killers, but these men were an integral part of the Civil War, and in many ways, they not only changed the nature of modern warfare, but put an indelible stamp on the American character.

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