Month: January 2019

Review of ‘Murder in Hyde Park’

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DCI Isaac Cook is at a critical point in his relationship with his fiancée, Jenny, when an unidentified corpse is found in a local park. Personal plans have to be put on hold when there’s a murder to be solved. Isaac and his team pull out all the stops to ID the John Doe, but when they do, the mystery only deepens. They discover that the dead man had been working as an escort under one name, but was actually someone else entirely, and was involved with a married woman whose previous lover died under questionable circumstances, and who is married to a shady defense contractor who is very possessive.

 

Intrigued? Well you should be. Murder in Hyde Park by Phillip Strang is yet another fantastic offering in the DCI Cook series, about the British-Jamaican police inspector who has to fight internal police bureaucracy and politics as much as he has to fight crime. Despite all obstacles, false trails, and red herrings, though, Isaac and his crew persistently unravel the tangled threads of the crime until they end up at the door of the killer.

 

If you are, like me, a fan of this series, you’ll be taking action right now to get this one. If you’ve not read them before, as soon as you finish this one, go back to book one and start educating yourself.

 

Mystery at its best. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I’m a great fan of the character, so I can’t say in all honesty that my review is totally unbiased. It is honest, though. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Absolution’

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Leine Basso, formerly a government assassin, has tried to distance herself from her former profession by applying her skills to aiding SHEN, an organization devoted to fighting human trafficking. But she is also obsessed with finding Salome, a freelance assassin whose skills match her own, but who prefers working on the dark side. When she gets news that Salome has resurfaced and is planning a new deadly operation, Leine once again severs ties, this time with SHEN, her daughter, April, and Santiago Jensen, the love of her life. Operating with former black ops colleagues, Leine moves from London to Los Angeles in an increasingly desperate search for the elusive Salome, both of them leaving a trail of bodies in their wakes.

 

Absolution by best-selling author D.V. Berkom is yet another spine-tingling thriller featuring one of the genre’s most exciting kick-ass female heroines. Page after page, the author builds the suspense to a fever pitch, as Leine realizes that Salome is manipulating her in an effort to kill her, and that she’s willing to go after those closest to Leine to achieve that goal.

 

This is a book you won’t be able to put down. I’ve read all of the Leine Basso series, and have to say, without hesitation or reservation, that this is the best of the best. It has everything a reader expects to find in a thriller, and more.

 

I received a complimentary review copy of this book, and I give it five stars. Read it, and you’ll immediately see why.

Review of ‘Murder of a Silent Man’

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Octogenarian property tycoon Gilbert Lawrence has been a recluse for thirty years since the disappearance of his wife, with his only contacts with the outside world through his solicitor, Leonard Dundas and his housekeeper. When he’s found stabbed to death in his front garden, DCI Isaac Cook and his team are left with a crime that has murky motives and no shortage of suspects, but no way to point a conclusive finger at any of them.

Murder of a Silent Man by Phillip Strang continues the riveting saga of DCI Cook and his ability to balance the demands of the police bureaucracy while maintaining his professional integrity. A story that moves with a sometimes measured, sometimes erratic pace as more bodies start cropping up and the hand of organized crime reveals itself. The trail to the killer moves in a serpentine way, uncovering other evils along the way until it ends at the most unlikely destination.

If this is the first DCI Cook mystery you’ve read, you’ll be motivated to go back and read earlier books in the series, but if, like me, you’re a fan of this character, you’ll just be satisfied that all is right with the world.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book. I loved it, and I can guarantee that you will as well. Another five stars for Strang and his amazing cast of characters.

Review of ‘The Dream Sifter’

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When she’s assessed as infertile, a young woman is ejected from her clan (sept) and adopted by a merchant sept. A Guardian, whose job is to locate and eliminate anyone carrying a deadly plague which threatens the very survival of humanity, is assigned to keep watch over her because she holds a secret within her mind, and if she remembers what it is—and who she is—it can also threaten humanity’s existence.

The Dream Sifter by Candice Bundy is an interesting story with an almost-believable universe, and the author does a good job of helping a reader suspend disbelief. Characters evoke empathy, and in some cases sympathy or antipathy. She also built a compelling mystery with lots of subtle hints and revealed it at a crucial point in the story. Unfortunately, she ended the story on a cliffhanger that is only resolved in the sequel to this book, which is unfair to readers who had invested so much of themselves in the characters and their situations.

Well crafted—except for the cliffhanger. I’ll give it three and a half stars. I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Second Jacob Blade – Vigilante Has Brand New Cover

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Book two in my Jacob Blade – Vigilante series now has a brand new cover. It’s still available, though, at the same great price of 99 cents. Check it out:

https://www.amazon.com/Jacob-Blade-Vigilante-Vengeance-Gunfighter-ebook/dp/B07MV9WZSY/

Review of ‘Death by Diploma’

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High school can be a traumatic time, but that’s usually for students. But when southern belle, Emma Lovett, after getting a divorce and going back to school to get her teaching degree, at her first job in a Colorado high school, she experiences trauma beyond her wildest imaginings. When she finds Melvin McMannus, the school’s night janitor, with his head bashed in, the seamy doings in the school’s underbelly start crawling into the light, and she finds herself at the epicenter of events that threaten to spiral out of control. With her new bestie, Leslie Parker, another English teacher at the school, she sets out to solve the murder, and in the process gets herself neck-deep in the putrid politics of a small-town school, and even perhaps a bit of romance on the side.

Kelley Kaye’s Death by Diploma is, in a word—well, three words actually—a rollicking read. Generous helpings of humor, a dollop of suspense, and as chaotic a cast of characters as mystery lovers could ever crave. As a cozy mystery fan, especially the excellently crafted British cozies, I have high standards, that many authors just don’t live up to. Kaye, on the other hand, not only met my expectations, she exceeded them.

I received a complimentary review copy of this outstanding book, and am happy to bestow upon it five stars.

Meet Kelley Kaye – A Cozy Mystery Author to Watch For

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 I haven’t done an author interview for some time, but when southern California author Kelley Kaye reached out to me to review her Chalkboard Outline series, and I finished the first one, Death by Diploma (which will be reviewed in tomorrow’s blog), I knew I had to know more about her and share that newfound knowledge with my readers. She taught High School English and Drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but her love for storytelling dates back to creating captions for her high school yearbook. Maybe back to the tales she created around her Barbie and Ken. Her knowledge, and love, of learning comes through very clearly in her books, but rather than bore you with my nattering, why don’t we let her tell you about herself and her writing.

 

 

How long have you been writing?

 

I have loved writing since birth, practically. But I’ve  only been writing to share since my first published short story—a horror story called “Wobegone” published in Crimson magazine in 2000. I’ve only been able to write full time since October of 2013.

 

 

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?

 

I am book obsessed—have been since I was three years old. It has always seemed like such a natural progression, from being obsessed with reading stories to wanting to dissect them and wanting to create some of my own. New obsession!

 

Is being an author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen?

 

I feel like my life all around just happened, just keeps happening, and YES it is all I ever dreamed of. I work hard to keep it happening, though. I mean, once it starts. If that even makes sense.

 

What inspired you to become a writer?

 

People always talk to me like this was some sort of a choice. I’ve always loved stories, have read obsessively since I was three, and because of this there are always stories in my head. The stories have to come out, somehow. It’s crucial to my mental health. So I let the stories out, and then there’s much less likelihood of a meltdown. Meltdowns bad, stories good.

 

No, seriously, when I read good writing it makes me want to make my own stories better. Other writers inspire me to write.

 

Who are your influences?

 

My biggest influence is most definitely my dad. He was this obsessive reader and adventurer who ended up opening the first-ever used bookstore (in the U.S. anyway. I think Europe has always had them). He traveled back and forth to that store—Salt Lake to Grand Junction and back—usually with his knees gripping the steering wheel and a book splayed across it, for years (true story), and he brought us any books we wanted. He also brought books HE liked, and shared those as well. My love for YA started with Madeline L’Engle (our books), and for mysteries started with cozies by Nancy Pickard, Jill Churchill, and Julie Smth (his books) and graduating to more hard-boiled fare by James Lee Burke and Harlan Coben (also his). He died in 2012, and I found out he, himself, had always wanted to write. I was heartbroken to hear of this unrealized dream. I hope I can do justice to those dreams, in memory and in honor of him.

 

What books have most inspired you, and who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

 

To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect book, in my opinion. But there are so many others—books inspire me because of the way the author turns a phrase, paints a picture or makes me hungry for the next moment. East of Eden. Cat’s Cradle. Something Wicked This Way Comes.

 

Harlan Coben is the one who inspired me to write a mystery—I wanted to write something where the reader laughed a lot and didn’t know how the book would end. Dean Koontz has always inspired me because I think he’s such a great storyteller. My friend Shawn told me once to read TickTock because the rapport between the two main characters sounded a lot like my voice as a writer. I read the book and was so flattered to have a comparison made like that! Stephen King is, also, in my mind a genius storyteller. 11-22-63 had so many moving parts to it and he made them all come together in this amazing machine. Plus I feel he’s a romantic and a feminist and an optimist—all wrapped up in this word package that can scare the bejesus out of you.

 

When did you begin writing, and what was the very first thing you ever wrote?

 

I have always loved writing, the way words can be combined in so many ways to create so many feelings. Stories can go anywhere I want them to go. Unlike life, which is much harder to

control. I’ve always liked messing around with words—stories for my Barbie dolls, captions for my yearbook—but I didn’t really start working on fictional stories and poems until my college creative writing class. I wrote a sci-fi story while listening to “Unforgiven” by Metallica (betcha didn’t know I was a Headbanger from way back), and my professor, Charles Clerc, thought it was good enough to enter it into an L. Ron Hubbard short story contest. I didn’t win, but the process of letting the story in the song inspire me to write a totally unrelated story was intoxicating.

 

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc.?

 

I people-watch and eavesdrop. A lot. In Death by Diploma, Emma was the name of my college roommate and current friend, and Leslie is one of my closest friends and colleagues from Colorado. The other names are just random ones I pulled out of my…hat.

 

 

The storylines can come from anywhere, I guess—news, television, myths. I taught high school English and drama for twenty years, including mythology—one of my favorite classes to teach. You can get a lot of ideas from mythologies and fairy tales, plus it’s SO fun to tell those stories in the classroom.

 

 

POV is tough to decide. I experiment with it all the time—the Chalkboard Outlines series is third person attached, but the Foundation series (YA Paranormal) alters between first and third person. And the YA standalone Down in the Belly of the Whale is first person, present tense. I’ve never done second person—maybe that’ll be next!

 

 

What do you think makes a good story?

 

Interesting characters with difficult decisions to make. I like it when I’m constantly asking “why did THAT happen?”; “who the heck is THAT?”; “why did that guy choose THAT path?”; etc. The questions are what keep me reading, and the people in the story make me care what’s going to happen as a result of those questions.

 

 

What does it take for you to love a character?

 

I need to believe their actions are true to their belief system and history.

 

How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

 

I ask that question of myself whenever the character decides to do something.

 

What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing?

 

I have a small “office”— AKA a chair—in the corner of my bedroom, complete with laptop and picture of my late father, bookseller extraordinaire. There is a schedule taped to the side of my dresser, laying out chunks of time for each writing project and each social media outlet. Seven days a week!

 

Do you work from an outline?

 

Ha. I WISH I were organized like that. No, I take whatever my basic story premise is, combine it with whichever characters I pick, and then we’re off to the races. It goes where it wants to. I bought this pretty pink three-ring binder. With pockets. My intention was (is) to have a section and a pocket for each of my characters, with journal entries, magazine pictures, objects, anything that would contribute to my knowledge of the story. Isn’t that a great idea? A mystery writer, Michele Scott, gave me that idea. It’s still sitting on the shelf next to the computer—pretty, pink, and empty. I’m lucky if I can find pockets of time to do both marketing and writing, much less organizing my life that way.

 

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?

 

I don’t know that I have a philosophy, per se. I have a compulsion to write stories or observations which expand upon people and situations. I hope to find an audience who likes the stories, but I will continue writing them no matter what, because if I don’t my head will explode.

 

 

What is your writing style? Outliner/planner or seat of the pantser?

 

My writing style has most definitely been pantser, but I’m in the middle of a book which is neither— instead it’s about tapping in to the brain’s evolutionary REQUIREMENT for story. It’s called Story Genius by Lisa Cron and so far it’s super interesting—I’m excited about implementing elements of this “blueprint” which is neither outlining nor pantsing, and I hope it helps me get better and better, which is always what I’m trying to do…

 

 

 

Can you tell us about your editing process?

 

I don’t edit anything until the entire first draft is finished. Then I give the manuscript to several beta readers, compile all their comments and ideas, and then dive in to the editing.

 

Do you listen to music as you write?

 

I have this recording I picked up at a “Write Your Book in a Weekend” conference. It’s sort of a beach-y, meditative type track with music and ocean sounds—also coyotes howling in the background. I know, right? Coyotes? But it puts me in a mind space that helps the words come out, for sure.

 

What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?

 

I am most challenged by the number of ideas I have in my head and on my plate, and the inability to find enough time to spend on them all. I don’t deal very well with it, I think. I’m trying to just attack one thing at a time, because that’s all anyone can really do, isn’t it? I just wish I did it better.

 

 

I feel lucky that dealing with this constant challenge means I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. I have so many projects happening at any given time—right now I’m trying to finish a humorous self-help memoir (you’re right. Not an actual genre. Yet.), I have to change the POV on one YA Paranormal, COMPLETELY overhaul a YA Paranormal that is first in a series, and I need to finish Chalkboard Outlines® Book Three, which I am very excited about even though Book  Two—Poison by Punctuation, is brand new and nobody’s really read it yet. So you see? If I get blocked on whatever I’m working on, then BAM, I shift to a different project. It’s nice that I have constant assignments for my magazine job also, because it’s a completely different type of writing, as are my fiction and non-fiction projects. Allows for whatever state my brain is in!

 

One more challenge—I have MS, have had it since 1994. Two symptoms I have are crushing fatigue, and the pesky problem of my right hand not working so well after a certain amount of activity on the computer or on the paper. Same problem with my left leg (on the street, not on the computer). I deal with those by living my life as a champion napper (I have a scooter, too). At least once a day I have to stop everything and lie down for a while. I did this when I was teaching, too. It’s awesome. I think everyone should do it.

 

 

When and where do you do your writing?

 

This is my office, AKA a chair and a laptop in the corner of my bedroom:

2019 Readers Choice Awards

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I’m so excited because my book, Buffalo Soldier: The Iron Horse, was just nominated for the 2019 Readers Choice Awards contest by TCK Publishing!

 

Please vote for it at https://www.tckpublishing.com/2019-readers-choice-voting-page/

My book can be found under Category 14, Historical Fiction. It should be the first book on the page.

Review of ‘The Undiscovered Country’

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When he buried his abusive father, did his time after being convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, divorced his evil second wife, and made plans to remarry his first, Jack Randle thought he had his family business in order. Then, he gets word that his mother, who had recently communicated an urgent desire to see him, is hospitalized and not expected to live. He’s plunged right back into the muddy pond of a dysfunctional family that he’d really rather not have to deal with—but circumstances leave him on choice.

The Undiscovered Country by Mike Nemeth is an engrossing story of one man’s efforts to set his life on a successful path, despite the efforts of others to divert him. It started a bit slow, as languid as a deep stream, and as soft as a southern summer evening, but picked up the pace when it was obvious that something bad happened or was happening.

This author knows how to hook you and keep your attention. I received a free review copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Portal Zero’

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When a government experiment goes wrong, a portal is opened to another world, allowing monsters to come to Earth. With the EMP accompanying the disaster knocking out power all over the country, the situation is dire. Can anyone survive?

Portal Zero by Eddie Patin is the first book in the Apocalypse Gate series, and it introduces an extensive roster of characters, each reacting to the alien arrivals in a different way. An ambitious story, but not a totally bad first effort.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it three and a half stars.

The latest Bass Reeves adventure

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The Red River QueenGet the latest adventure of Deputy US Marshal Bass Reeves for your Kindle from Outlaws Publishing, LLC. Now available for only 99 cents. Bass is sent to arrest a young woman who has formed an outlaw gang that is terrorizing traffic on the Red River. You won’t want to miss this one.

Available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MP47117/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of ‘Frozen Statues: Perdition Games’

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Seven Canadian university freshmen disappear without a trace, but when police later discover two frozen corpses, carefully posed and their eyes replaced by black stones, PI Samantha McNamara knows in her heart that this is a copycat killer restaging murders by the deadly serial killer, Incubus, a man she helped put away for life when she was a member of the police force.

Determined to prove her theory right, she takes it to the police, but is told by her old boss to stay out of it. Never good at taking orders, and convinced that she’s right, she accepts an invitation from Incubus to visit him in prison. That visit sends her on a hunt, not just to find the Frozen Statue Killer and save the lives of the remaining students, but to exorcise her own demons from the fact that one of Incubus’s last victims was her older sister, Joyce. She knows that, somehow, Incubus holds the key to the current case, and she’s determined to track it to the end.

Frozen Statues: Perdition Games by L.E. Fraser is a chilling thriller that takes the reader deep inside the tormented minds of psychopaths who kill for pleasure and the thrill of the chase. A compelling read it shows the circles within circles of mental illness, sometimes merely socially inconvenient, but often, deadly. Not an easy book to read in one sitting, not only because it is long and complicated, but also because you’ll need to get away from it from time to time to remind yourself that, after all, it’s only fiction. But, is it. Studies have shown that the number of psychopaths and sociopaths in any population is far greater than we think, and even in a ‘polite’ society like Canada, darkness lurks around every corner.

I give it five stars.