Author: Charles Ray
Oliver, the elegant tomcat, is back with Jumpy and his other friends in another series of adventures that will bemuse and beguile your little ones. Oliver and Jumpy: 49-51 by Werner Stejskal has Oliver getting in trouble with an ice bear when he goes skating with Jumpy’s son, Joey, Oliver tutoring a family of young mice, and finally, Oliver and Jumpy helping to teach a naughty dragon a lesson.
Interesting and entertaining stories that youngsters will love having read to them, with fantastic pictures to accompany them will keep your young ones busy for hours.
I give this one four stars.
Shiloh Wallace spells her name with a ‘y’ instead of an ‘i,’ not because she’s shy, but just to be different. She has few friends, beyond her dad, his best friend, Samuel, his blind secretary, Bea, and her best friend forever, Katie. Life in Welch, West Virginia is boring for 17-year-old Shiloh who is anxious to turn 18 and finally graduate from high school so she can leave Welch in the coal dust. Then, she starts to have strange dreams and experience strange things, especially when the strange man, Lazarus comes to town with plans to buy the man where he daddy works. When she touches the stranger, she learns an even stranger thing, she can read thoughts of people when she touches them. As if that’s not strange enough, the oddball geology professor who came to town with Lazarus, when she finds him sneaking around Shiloh Ridge, informs her that she’s not really ‘human.’ She’s a Talisman, a strange race of supernatural being who can channel awesome powers through stones. Okay, do I have you attention? Good, because it only gets better—or worse depending upon your point of view—from that point. Shiloh quickly finds herself in a life or death struggle with other Talismans who want to kill her because she’s the heir to the most powerful item on earth.
Talisman by S. E. Akers is a refreshing paranormal story, with lots of humor, a ton of teen angst—did I mention that Shiloh’s mom hates her and her kid sister thinks she’s been put on earth only to serve as her handmaiden. Add a town bully, son of the mine owner, and the usual complement of high school harridans, and Shiloh doesn’t really need angry Talismans trying to poison her or rip her throat out. But she has all that, and precious little time to learn to harness her powers, because not only is her life at stake, but so are the lives of the few people she cares about and the survival of the whole town. If Shiloh can’t learn to control the diamond wand—yeah, and you thought diamonds were a girl’s best friend, right?—it’s curtains.
What can I say—you’ll enjoy this book. The dialogue is authentic without becoming insulting or corny, and the action is riveting. My hat’s off to the author for writing a YA s tory that an old graybeard like me could read without concealing it behind a ‘Sport’s Illustrated.’
I give this one four stars.
Elphie’s afraid of just about everything; he won’t go on the slide or play on the monkey bars until his mom gets him a new pet, the rat, Bravo. At first, Elphie doesn’t like Bravo, because he doesn’t know him, but mom suggests he take him to the park where they can become acquainted. At the park, Elphie learns not only to get along with Bravo, but to take care of him, and his fears disappear.
Bravo and Elphie by mother-daughter team Hagit and Or Oran is a cute little story for young readers or for those being read to that teaches children not to be afraid of things they’ve never seen, and to learn to explore the world around them. The illustrations are nice and will appeal to everyone.
This is a great book for the parent or grandparent of a timid child, to help pull them out of their shells of shyness. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.
Elizabeth Bennet goes to Netherfield Park to keep her sick sister, Jane, company. Things turn odd as soon as she arrives. She sees a ghostly face in an upstairs window of the manor, and hears eerie sounds. Then, when things start turning up missing, and she meets a dark stranger in the middle of the night, she finds herself embroiled in danger and scandal, and the only one she can turn to for help is the stiff Mr. Darcy, who at first seems to dislike her, or at least, to hold her in disdain.
The Netherfield Affair by Penelope Swan is a Regency mystery written in the style of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The author does a fantastic job of recreating the style of Austen’s works, with a touch of mystery, complete with hidden clues and red herrings. Jane Austen fans will love this book, and even if you’re not particularly fond of this style of writing, I’m sure you’ll find this an entertaining story. This is the first book in a planned four-book series that explores the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.
I’ll be looking for the next one to see if the mysterious highwayman is found, and just what his story really is. That’s a bit of a spoiler, but only a bit. The ending will still surprise you.
I give it five stars.
Alec Winters, a 40-year-old native of New Orleans, though in good shape, looks like a normal person. But, he has another personality, one that was brought out when he came to his sister Cat’s rescue when their father was trying to rape her. To some he’s seen as a bright angel of redemption, but, to the evil, he’s seen as a giant, red devil, come to take them to the depths of hell.
Crescent City by Chariss K. Walker is a dark paranormal thriller that follows Alex as he moves around the Crescent City protecting the weak from their tormentors. It is also the story of Vivien Simon, an investigative reporter who senses there’s more to the story of a few grisly murders than meets the eye, and who is relentless in her pursuit of the truth.
A tense story that is for the most part well-paced, this tale will chill you as Alec races against time to save his love, from a greedy man who is willing to kill her rather than see her belong to someone else. It’s only with Vivien’s help that he can do it, but there’s a possible cost; it might mean exposing Cat to more trauma. He is faced with an almost impossible choice. I won’t spoil it by telling you how the story turns out, but I assure you that you’ll like it. It did get a little choppy near the end, almost as if the author was rushing to get it done, which is too bad, but didn’t spoil what’s on balance a pretty good story.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it three and a half stars.
Cheyenne and Celeste had been close—in fact, Celeste was like a mother to Cheyenne—until Dominic came. He promised Celeste love, but instead, he awakened her dark side, and the two of them are determined to destroy Cheyenne. With the help of Jane and others of the Dragon Clan, Cheyenne must resist a force that becomes stronger with each soul Dominic and Celeste binds to their dark designs. The forces that Cheyenne must face as she fights to save her home, though, are overwhelming.
Dragon Domain is the second book in the Dragon Clan Trilogy by Theresa Chaze. It is a compelling tale of love and betrayal with a Wiccan heroine you can’t help but cheer for. The action is chilling and the human emotions are deep. This one reads like a good thriller, with a dollop of witchcraft thrown into the mix. You don’t have to be a fan of paranormal fiction to like it.
This is one you’ll want to schedule a good block of time to read, but you won’t want to put it down once you’ve started.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it three and a half stars.
Houston Police Detective Sean Jamison is tormented. Long on the job, he’s suffering both physical and mental burnout, as he and his colleagues search for a serial killer who is targeting the women of the city. Then, belching smoke from an oil refinery triggers a memory in Jamison, a memory of a past life, and a love lost. As one memory piles on top of another, he realizes that his lost love is no longer ‘lost,’ but is a possible target of the killer known as The Magician, and only dogged police work and his strange ‘intuition’ can catch the killer and save his beloved.
Death Unmasked by Rick Sulik is a gripping paranormal thriller, deftly combining the paranormal with police procedure as Jamison finds more and more links with his past as he chases a killer who quotes from an ancient poem after each crime.
The author drops one surprise after another as you make your way through this riveting story, ending with a more than satisfying, but strange conclusion. I can’t say which was better, the way he handled reincarnation, or the way he built a murder mystery, clue by clue, so I guess I’ll just have to say the whole thing worked for me.
This was a pretty competent first novel.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.
A deep space survey ship is lost on the fringes of a distant star system, victim of a sneak attack. A nuclear terror plot is foiled on the outskirts of Washington, DC, and the evidence points to the company that holds the key to interstellar travel, and a conspiracy is ‘uncovered’ pointing to this same company.
Casimir Bridge, a first novel by Darren D. Beyer is a science fiction-thriller that covers four star systems, and, thanks to the author’s background as a NASA engineer, the technical details, even those describing systems that don’t yet exist, come across as entirely credible. The action switches back and forth between the efforts of a young journalist, Mandisa Khosi, who has stumbled across a byzantine plot to gain incredible power, and Jans Mikel, the CEO of AIC, the company that’s the target of an extremely hostile takeover by a powerful man who will stop at nothing to gain even more power. Beyer’s descriptions of space travel are richly detailed and credible, as are the accounts of the intrigue and political maneuvering that goes on behind the scenes.
Great science fiction, but on a deeper level, if you take away the interstellar travel and violence, the author could be describing events taking place in the present day. The unbridled pursuit of power that characterizes modern-day politics is on full display in this nonstop thrill-a-minute story.
Beyer is definitely a science fiction author to keep an eye on, and this story ends on a cliffhanger that makes me anxious to read the sequel.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it five stars, and await the next one.
Faz Pound, aka Black Spark, a Dark Magic Enforcer, travels to Japan in pursuit of Kimiko, the vampire who killed his parents, and who has established herself as the head of Japan’s gangster empire. His mission, to kill her. But, even with the help of his necromancer friend, Dancer, this proves to be a challenge that threatens to overwhelm him as he faces beings from the Hidden unlike any he’s ever seen.
Neon Spark by Al K. Line is the fifth book in the Dark Magic Enforcer series, and it continues the amazing adventures of a human with magic powers who devotes his life to enforcing the arcane laws that keep the worlds of the Hidden and the Normals in balance. If you’ve read the first four books of the series, you’ll enjoy this one as it shows Faz’s character development as he learns more about his own history, as well as the histories of those around him. The action, as always, is nonstop, with wry observations from the main character, of himself and others.
A good read. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.
I give this one four stars.
FBI Special Agent Jack Davis is investigating a drug dealer, using some rather unorthodox methods. At the same time, he’s contending with his own body’s rebellion—he frequently is subjected to violent shaking and tremors—a condition he’s trying to hide from his colleagues and his boss. When the drug dealer, his gang, and his family are slaughtered, Jack is caught off guard, and his condition comes to light, just as he suspects someone on his own team of leaking information to the bad guys. Jack then mounts his own private, and unsanctioned investigation, determined to catch the killer, but also obsessed with protecting his daughter, Wendy, who has taken up with a member of his team. His only resources are his own determination, and the help of Kate Scranton, a behavioral expert who uses micro-expressions to determine when people are being dishonest or evasive.
Shakedown by Joel Goldman is a fast-paced, thriller that explores the darkest side of life, sociological and emotional. Follow Jack and Kate as they match wits with an orderly, driven killer, who is the last person anyone would suspect, while dealing with treachery from those sworn to protect and serve.
Hard to put down once you start it, and will leave you shaking as hard as Jack when it’s all over. I received this book as a gift.
Jake Bronson has terminal cancer. During an MRI, there’s an earthquake, and he comes out of the chamber a changed man; with enhanced mental and physical functions that no one can explain. In Italy, terrorist Luciano Battista wants what Jake has, and is willing to kill for it. He sends unwitting Dr. Francesca Fellini, an empath, to convince Jake to cooperate in sharing the secrets of his abilities, but when that fails, he resorts to harsher methods. That is a big mistake. Jake and his friends go to war with Fellini and his goons in an action thriller that is as explosive as some of the explosive charges that detonate.
Brainrush by Richard Bard puts the thrill in thriller. Lots of technical details on weapons and tactics for those who like that kind of stuff, but it also has a lot of the personal dynamics that men and women at war experience. A nice, exciting read. I give it four stars.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin is having one of its worst winters in over a hundred years. Detective Kendall Halsrud is investigating the deaths of two teenagers which resembles the 12-year old unsolved cases of three missing couples. Kendall wonders if it’s the same killer, or does someone else have a reason for wanting these kids dead.
In Iced Malice Marla Madison, Kendall has to solve three really cold cases while hot on the trail of a killer who kills without remorse and in some macabre ways, while dealing with her feelings for her colleague, Detective Adam Nashlund, who, after being severely injured while on an undercover operation, suffers amnesia and no longer remembers what they meant to each other.
Chilling mystery (no pun intended) and warm human emotions entwine in a story that can only be called a page-turner. Get it while it’s hot. I give it four cool stars!
Rosa Bassetti is an elderly resident of the Upper East-side of Manhattan, an area inhabited by people who are not rich stockbrokers or financiers. All Rosa has is her dog and the connection with her neighbors who also have pets. When Eileen Hargan, another senior citizen who is her neighbor, receives a threat against her pet unless she pays money, Rosa springs into action, determined to get to the bottom of it.
Connections by Jacqueline Wein is a story of the connections people have with their pets, and those that develop because of a common love of their animal companions. Though the story has a strong focus on the interpersonal dynamics, it’s also a competently written mystery, that follows several characters as they learn that the threats against pet owners is more widespread than originally thought.
The author captures your imagination and interest from the very beginning and keeps it throughout the book. Her portrayal of the diverse people living in Manhattan, and the everyday travails the elderly face make this a book for the serious reader and the casual lover of mysteries alike.
I give Wein five stars for this one.
Pali Moon is a wedding planner with a missing bridesmaid. When a lock of the missing woman’s hair ends up on the backseat of Pali’s car, she really starts to worry, and when the woman’s fake fingernails are put in a sack and hung on her door, she knows something’s wrong. Unfortunately, the police don’t take her seriously, and tell her to keep her nose out of it. That’s the wrong thing to tell Pali, and pretty soon, not just her nose is in the mess, she’s up to her neck and sinking.
Livin’ Lahaina Loca by JoAnn Bassett is a thriller/mystery with equal parts humor and horror as we follow Pali and her friends in search of the missing woman. The author nails the local scene in Maui, and has characters you’ll swear you’ve had a drink or two with at some point.
A fun read. I give it four stars.
When the British SIS sends a four-man team of elite soldiers into North Africa on a covert assassination mission, everything goes wrong. Their target is a dangerous Islamic extremist leader, and accompanying them is the daughter of a local moderate that the UK wants to influence. Hayes, the team leader, fights against long odds, and home-based machinations when the woman’s captured and his team comes under attack. With few allies and more than enough enemies, the team’s survival is in doubt.
Bonfire by Mark Arundel is a fast-paced thriller of secret intelligence and betrayal. Lots of technical and geographical details, but it lost a little credibility when everyone but the main character, Hayes, is given full names. In particular, the woman he’s been ‘intimate’ with should know more than ‘Mr. Hayes.’ This isn’t a deal breaker, but the story would have much better if readers knew more about the hero.
I give this one three stars.
Beryl Markham was brought to Kenya from England as a child. Abandoned by her mother, she was raised by her father and the Kipsigi tribe. Growing up in such an environment, she became a strong-willed, unconventional woman, unafraid to tackle things thought unfit for a lady, becoming one of Africa’s first female horse trainers and a license pilot in an age when most women didn’t even drive. What Beryl had trouble with, though, was love. From a loveless marriage to a love triangle with the man married to her best friend, she drifted from one failed relationship to another. She did, however, find one love—one that freed her metaphorically as well as physically—flying.
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain is a novelized account of Markham’s life from childhood until her first attempt to fly solo across the Atlantic. An amazing piece of historical fiction that brings her to life in ways that straight historical reporting would never be able to do. Meticulously researched, and obviously written with a great degree of passion, you’ll find yourself rooting for Markham as she faces one challenge after another.
This book explores an aspect of colonial Africa from the period before World War 1 to World War 2 that is not often found in historical fiction, or even nonfiction histories, and it is well worth the few hours it takes to read it.
I received this book as a gift—one of my better gifts this year. This one’s an easy five stars.
Samantha Blair is a psychic who has been shunned and ridiculed all of her life because of her ‘gift.’ Her talent, though, is a dreadful burden in another way; she finds herself inside the mind of murder victims, experiencing their pain and death as it happens. When she reports this to the police, she meets Detective Brandt Sutherland, a no-nonsense cop who, though he has worked with psychics, only trusts what he can see. He has his doubts about Samantha, but she has details that seem to point to a serial killer he has been hunting, and when he witnesses one of her ‘visions,’ he’s convinced that she’s the real deal. Moreover, he fears that she could become a target of the killer.
Tuesday’s Child by Dale Myer is a chilling thriller that gallops at a breakneck pace as Samantha and Brandt try to identify and stop the killer before more people die. When Samantha comes to the killer’s notice due to internal police politics and bureaucratic maneuvering, the tension ratchets up to an almost unbearable level.
This story will grab your throat and hold it in a vise-like grip until the climax. It’ll literally leave you breathless.
I give it five stars.
Set up by a crooked mechanic, Christopher Marcos is accused of smuggling drugs and consigned to Mexico’s island prison, Tres Marias. Even though imprisoned, he’s determined to gain his freedom. That determination is redoubled when he meets Juanita, the daughter of a ship’s captain providing girls for the entertainment of the exiles on Tres Marias. Drawn together by spirits that Christopher barely understands, these two young lovers plot his escape.
On the dawn of his escape, a hurricane strikes, and he believes that Juanita is lost at sea. Bereft, he nonetheless continues his plan to get away from the isolated island.
Redemption’s Warrior by Jennifer Morse is a profound tale of spiritual belief and young love, and how it prevails despite the efforts of those around them to prevent it. The author takes readers deep inside the spirit world in a story that is combines elements of the real effortlessly with the metaphysical. While it gets off to a weak start, providing information that would be better revealed later in the story, and ends with no explanation of how Juanita survived the hurricane, it is nonetheless a compelling story that is very enjoyable.
I give it three stars.
Jill Zanos is a Detroit homicide detective with one foot in the traditional Greek community of the Motor City’s Greektown and the other in some of the city’s most devastated neighborhoods. While she’s investigating a brutal murder, a young woman found shot and physically assaulted, she has to deal with some of her family’s deadly secrets.
The Greeks of Beaubien Street by Suzanne Jenkins follows along with Jill as she’s whipsawed between a murder case that has some bizarre twists and family secrets that lead to a death in the family. Jenkins digs deep into family histories, exposing the good and the bad as she puts her characters through their paces.
Don’t pick this book up if you have anything important or time-sensitive to do, because I promise you, you’ll not put it down. I give this four stars.
Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection Box Set, Books 1-3 by Barbara Venkataraman contains the first three books in the Jamie Quinn mystery series.
In Death by Didgeridoo, Jamie, a lawyer who specializes in family practice, is asked to defend her cousin, Adam, who is wrongfully accused of murder. Inexperienced in criminal law, she also has the challenge that the murder weapon, an esoteric musical instrument, belonged to Adam. in the Case of the Killer Divorce, a bitter divorce becomes a murder case, and her client is the prime suspect. In the final story, Peril in the Park, Jamie’s boyfriend, Kip Simons, director of Broward County Parks, has problems. A vandal is taunting him by desecrating the parks, and he faces political pressure from the political power structure. Jamie comes to his rescue.
Three tales filled with mystery, humor, and pathos, with a main character you can’t help but love. The author brings the setting to lush life and runs the characters through their paces in quick time. If you like a little mirth with your mystery, you’ll really like these stories.
I give this set a combined four stars.