Author: Charles Ray

Review of ‘Taemane – Daimonds’

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When the owner of a South African diamond mine dies, his two daughters, Kate and Claire, vie for control. The tension between the two women is ratcheted up, because of their personality differences, complicated by the racial tensions of the time.

Kate’s childhood sweetheart, Alex, is son of the native cook, and is determined to rid the mine of diamond thieves who have infiltrated the work crew. He is led to an inevitable confrontation with the leader of the gang, who has insinuated himself into Claire’s life. Bit by bit, with mounting tension, Kevin Farran introduces the reader to the reality and brutality of life in a society built on caste and race differences, and the power of love to persevere against almost insurmountable odds, in Taemane: Diamond, an uncompromising story of love, greed, and violence.

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

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What Seeds Are You Sowing This Season?

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THE LOVELY PHOTOG

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Spring is finally here! Well, it has arrived in some parts of the U.S., it has certainly been missed here in Arkansas.

To sow a seed, in gardening terms is to get a seed ready to plant for something to grow. In spiritual terms, to sow a seed, means to give or do something for the purpose of growth.

There are 3 Ways I plan to Sow a Seed This Season:

Stewardship for my community, family and friends.

Self Care for me and my mental and physical wellness.

Surround myself with positive people and things.

If you’d like to see me chat more about sowing a seed, check out my video below:

What Seeds Are You Sowing This Season?

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Review of ‘Bodacious Creed’

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After his wife and daughter are killed in a fire, U.S. Marshall James ‘Bodacious’ Creed has only his profession—catching criminals—to fall back on. One day, outlaw killer, Corwin Blake, catches Creed by surprise and kills him. Creed awakens in an underground laboratory, resurrected by a mysterious young woman who, in addition to running the town brothel, is an accomplished robotics engineer. Now faster and tougher and before, Creed is conflicted. On the one hand, he is still driven to catch bad guys, but, on the other, he misses the peace of death. When he discovers a secret society bent upon using the techniques of resurrection for illicit purposed, though, he decides that his death can wait.

Bodacious Creed by Jonathan Fesmire is a rip-roaring steam punk zombie western story that will captivate you from beginning to end. Outlandish technology, walking dead, and plenty of black-hat villains, facing off with an undead, and conflicted hero, this story has all the elements of each genre that it represents, all coming together in an unforgettable adventure.

This is the first book in a series that is just begging to be made into a TV series. I received a free copy of this book.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Joshua and the Magical Forest’

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For a long time, Joshua has searched for his missing father. With the aid of the Oracle, he travels through mystical lands and battles strange creatures, until he’s faced with a final choice, save the world, or give up his one true love. With his friend, Andrew, and one of the last remaining imps in the world, Galleon, this young woodsman must prove himself again and again.

Joshua and the Magical Forest by Christopher D. Morgan is book one in the Portallas series which takes the reader to strange worlds filled with even stranger creatures. While mainly escapist reading, this story does have its magical moments. A nice read on a chilly day.

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

Review of ‘A World Unimagined’

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When well written, fiction stirs the imagination, and often contains more truth than the most assiduously researched piece of nonfiction. Science fiction asks the reader to suspend disbelief and believe in worlds that exist only in the imagination. A World Unimagined, edited by Karen T. Newman goes a giant step beyond, and asks the reader to believe in worlds that lie beyond the realm of every-day imagining. An anthology of science fiction and speculative fiction by a bevy of talented international authors, this volume sucks the reader in with the inexorable force of a black hole, but, unlike a black hole, it emits light—the light of better understanding of the mundane world we currently inhabit.

Imagine, if you will, a prison located in the depths of the ocean. Now, imagine a prison transport submarine with a special prisoner on board. It runs into trouble, and the guards discover that their special prisoner possesses abilities that could not have been foreseen; with deadly consequences. This is just a snippet of the tales that await you in A World Unimagined. You don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy this book, just someone who loves a well-told tale.

 

I received an advanced review copy of this book. I took a look at the first story, and was so impressed, I decided to forego my rule of only one book review per week, and kept reading. Well-written, nay, brilliantly written. This one is a ‘don’t-miss-it’ addition to your summer reading list.

I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘Glamorous’

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An auto accident killed her brother, Danny, and brought Grace Bishop’s police career to an end. But, it left her with the ability to communicate with the dead, and to rematerialize Danny, who now assists her in her job as a PI determined to bring evil-doers to justice.

When a friend comes to her for help in determining the fate of missing homeless girls and prostitutes, Grace and Danny, with the assistance of her cop friend, Billy, who is aware of her paranormal ability, dig deep into the case. She discovers a paranormal ‘family’ that conceals great powers, and great evil, and is determined to put an end to it, even if it means risking her own life.

Glamorous by Denise Bossarte is a combination of mystery and magic that follows Grace as she employs her ‘ability’ to get to the truth of a serial killer who lacks remorse or any other human feelings. This is a story that will appeal to both mystery and paranormal fiction fans, with a strong, determined female heroine who takes no prisoners.

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

Review of ‘Behold Darkness’

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Businessman Nathan Serebus and his friend and attorney, Albin Conrad, while on a business trip to San Francisco, find themselves in the middle of a terrorist attack. But, this is no ordinary, garden variety terrorist attack; in this attack a contagion has been released that turns people into cannibals. In order to survive, and help humanity survive, Nathan must surrender part of his own humanity.

Behold Darkness by L.C. Champlin is not just another zombie apocalypse story, it’s more like a zombie apocalypse story on steroids. Filled with danger, dirty language, and dire situations, it has no heroes, just people doing what they have to do to survive. If you’re offended by off-color language and uncensored violence, you might want to give this book a pass. It’s definitely not for anyone with a weak constitution.

The characters, as unlovable as they are, are interesting, and the situations are intense. A good book for action junkies.

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

Washington DC Area – Second Day of Spring, 2018

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March 21, 2018, the second official day of spring, and here’s the view I have from my kitchen and family rooms in North Potomac, must outside Washington, DC. And, while it doesn’t show in the photos, the snow is still falling, and is forecast to continue to fall until late at night, putting most of the area on snow emergency lock-down.

Review of ‘Feasible Planet’

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Have you ever wondered what one person can do to address the serious issue of climate change, and the danger that human-generated activities threaten life on this planet? If that sounds like too ponderous subject for you, then stop reading, because you will not be interested in what follows, or in the book, Feasible Planet by Ken Kroes.

An ambitious book that gives guidelines for more sustainable living, it cannot be read in a single sitting, and has many sections that those who just want it straight forward and unvarnished—or laden with too many complicated charts and formulae. If, however, you make it through, you will be better armed to help Earth survive.

At times, this book can be a bit overpowering, and it could have, I believe, gotten the message across with fifty percent fewer charts and graphs. Having said that, I still believe it is worth reading, and actually, strongly suggest that you do just that.

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

Review of ‘The Bench’

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Jenny is the office mouse, closeted in her cubicle in a large publishing house, she lives in a world only of her literary aspirations. Then, she stumbles across a love poem by an unknown author that changes her world—not necessarily for the better.

The Bench by Kevin Farran is an enigmatic romantic novel that explores the delusions that can engulf a life, fanning flames of hope and desire in ways beyond imagining. The story follows a measured journey through one woman’s tortured mind in a way that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end.

I received a free copy of this book. I give the author four stars for a good effort to entertain and enlighten.

Review of ‘The Deepest Grave’

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DS Fiona Griffiths hasn’t had a murder case in over a year. Then, a local archaeologist is killed, beheaded, and the head is staged so that it’s staring at a fragment of Latin text. Fiona finds herself involved in a case that, in order to solve, she has to delve in battles that are centuries old, and grapple with the legend of Arthur and Camelot.

The Deepest Grave by Harry Bingham is an entertaining British crime thriller with elements of the supernatural and ancient history entwined most effectively with a contemporary crime story. Bingham presents us with a strong, yet flawed, female character who will attract and hold your interest page after page.

I give Bingham five stars for this one.

Review of ‘Open Primary: Ameritocracy’

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Disillusioned with the state of the American political process, and somewhat traumatized by her estranged father’s failed attempt to run for president, Mia Rhodes decides to upend the system. She creates a presidential primary process that is truly open—a social media engine that allows any qualified person to declare candidacy, and then lets the People decide. Her project founders until she attracts the attention of eccentric tech billionaire, Peter Colton, who bankrolls her. Once her system is up and running, though, Mia discovers that in order to change the American political quagmire, she had to undergo significant personal change.

Open Primary: Ameritocracy by A. C. Fuller takes the political system that causes all of us so much anguish head on. Humor and pathos, hope and despair, exist side by side as Mia learns that changing a dirty system often requires getting down into the mud.

If you’re still reeling from the outcome of the 2016 joke that was the presidential election, you’ll find a lot in this book to relate to, cheer for, and gnash your teeth over. This is the first book in a series that will change your view of politics forever.

This book is the Primary Colors of the 2016 election. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Stop the Slip’

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Interesting facts: falls are the number one cause of ER visits in the US, and you’re three times more likely to die from a fall injury than a firearm injury. While this doesn’t mean that we should stop our efforts to prevent firearm injuries, it does call for more attention to preventing needless injury and death from falls—mostly in the home.

Stop the Slip: Reducing Slips, Trips and Falls by Thom Disch addresses this pervasive, but little discussed, problem, with statistics and preventive measures that anyone can understand and apply. Everything from addressing clutter around your home to more intelligent selection of footwear is covered in this chilling book. Fall-proof yourself today with this handy guide.

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

Review of ‘Death and the Lucky Man’

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Alan Winters came from a not-so-lucky family, with a neglectful mother, and brothers in prison. His luck seemed to turn, though, when he won 68 million pounds in the lottery—but, not for long. Alan ended up naked, with his throat slashed, on the Altar Stone at Stonehenge. DCI Keith Tremayne and his partner, DS Clare Yarwood investigate the strange death, each having also to face pasts that in some ways were best forgotten.

Death and the Lucky Man by Phillip Strang is another fascinating adventure with Tremayne and Yarwood and the denizens of their working-class English environment. The author takes you effectively behind the curtain in a story that will delight.

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

Review of ‘Murder in the Painted Lady’

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Peyton Brooks and her partner, Marco D’Angelo, are two of SFPD’s top detectives. No case is too hard for them to solve, until a real estate agent is murdered in a high-end SF property, a painted lady, and there’s no motive, no useful evidence, and no real suspects. Peyton and Marco are working against the clock, trying to catch the killer before he or she strikes again.

Murder in the Painted Lady by M.L. Hamilton is a real nail-biter. Down-to-earth characters in the well-limned setting of San Francisco—from Knob Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf—this is one you won’t be able to put down. A novella, this is a prequel to the Peyton Brooks mystery series, introducing a quirky, but strong female character.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Track Down Iraq’

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When a former comrade is captured and put on display by an ISIS terrorist group, Brad Jacobs and his old marine vets set out to rescue him. Working against the odds, and against US Government inaction and, in some cases, perfidy, they save the day.

Track Down Iraq by Scott Conrad is pure escapist reading, primarily for action junkies who like the good guys to be super good—and, guys is the operative word here, since the female characters seem to be primarily arm candy—and the bad guys to be totally irredeemable. A lot of snide side comments about anything that’s not in uniform, and a bit of uninformed speculation about the civilian agencies of government.

If you like your action uncomplicated, it’s probably a read you’d enjoy. I found occasional snippets of entertainment in it. I give it three stars.

In Memoriam – Ursula K. Le Guin: 1929 – 2018

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Chief Writing Wolf

“The way to make something good is to make it well.  If the ingredients are extra good (truffles, vivid prose, fascinating characters) that’s a help. But it’s what you do with them that counts. With the most ordinary ingredients (potatoes, everyday language, commonplace characters) – and care and skill in using them – you can make something extremely good.”

“If your manuscript doesn’t follow the rules of what’s currently trendy, the rules of what’s supposed to be salable, the rule some great authority laid down, you’re supposed to make it do so. Most such rules are hogwash, and even sound ones may not apply to your story. What’s the use of a great recipe for soufflé if you’re making blintzes? The important thing is to know what it is you’re making, where your story is going, so that you use only the advice that genuinely helps you get there. The hell…

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Review of ‘Mark of the Loon’

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When Madison Boone buys an old cottage in Sonoma that belonged to a reclusive ornithologist and his wife, her plans are just to fix it up and flip it for profit. The property has a secret, though, and some people are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to uncover it—unfortunately, they have to get Madison off the property first. With the help of her friend, lawyer, Gen Delacourt, Madison begins to peel away the layers of the mystery of the Blackburne family’s estate, and what she learns could be deadly.

Mark of the Loon by Molly Greene is a delightful cozy mystery with a wacky, but loveable cast of characters—a group of witty, independent women who operate according to their own rules, and a colorful locale that is lovingly described, without becoming boring. I loved the pacing; slow and measured until you feel comfortable, and then a burst of frenetic action to get your blood pounding, and just enough budding romance to make it all interesting.

A great start to what I predict will be an even greater series. Don’t miss it. I give it five stars.