Author: Charles Ray

Review of ‘I am Sleepless: The Huntress’

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After the discovery of Sim 299, Aidan and his group are put to the test. Director Tuskin destroys the sim system, forcing Aidan and his coterie to escape the training complex and venture into the outside world for the first time in their lives. Their quest is endangered, though, when Tuskin sends the Huntress, Sheva, to recapture them.

I Am Sleepless: The Huntress by Johan Twiss is the second book in the ‘I Am Sleepless’ series. It picks up where the first book ended, and ups the ante for Aidan and his friends as they experience an unknown world and new adventures, with Sheva breathing down their necks. This is an excellent book for young adult readers, packed with suspense and adventure in a fantastic, but almost believable world.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Ghost Files’

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Ever since her mother tried to kill her when she was five, 16-year-old Mattie Hathaway has been able to see ghosts. It’s bad enough that she’s been in the foster care system since that terrible incident with her mother, but she doesn’t need the hassle of being thought weird, so she keeps it to herself. But, when her foster sister, Sally, appears before her with a bullet hole in her forehead, she has to do something. As she feared, though, people think she’s a bit strange. Things only get worse when other wraiths, similarly killed, begin to appear, including one strange boy spirit who is capable of hurting her—really physically hurting.

Her only hope is a rookie cop, only a few months on the job, who doesn’t know if he believes her, but is sure that he has strong feelings for her.

You might think that The Ghost Files by Apryl Baker is a scary story for young readers, but I caution you; think again. A chilling tale that begins a bit bumpily, but very quickly, the ‘bumps’ are the things that inhabit the night. Mattie is seeing the victims of a demented, vicious serial killer who seems to enjoy inflicting maximum damage on the victims before dispatching them. The stakes are raised when Mattie tunes into one of the victims who hasn’t died yet, but who is being tortured, and she learns that she’s slated to be the next victim. Can she find the killer before the killer finds her? I’m not telling, because that would spoil the book for you. You’ll just have to read it and find out for yourself.

I give you fair warning, though; read this book in a room with all the lights on.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Prophecy of Light – Trapped’

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Kady and her aunt have, it seems, always lived a nomadic life. They are fleeing some unknown, dark force, which her aunt will never name, because ‘words have power.’ When Kady is awakened one night by some force destroying their home, her aunt uses magic power to spirit her away to safety, while she battles the dark mage, Zyam. Alone, and seeking to rescue her aunt from the dark mage’s clutches, Kady learns from the dwarf mage, Pylum, that she, too, has magic powers, but they have yet to fully awaken.

Prophecy of Light – Trapped by R. J. Crayton is the opening salvo in a three-part series that introduces Kady as her powers begin to manifest themselves. This story is short, but powerful, and does a masterful job of setting out the characters, their histories, and the obstacles they must overcome in order to prevail. The author has built a credible world, and peopled it with characters the reader will have no trouble relating to—either to cheer on, or to jeer at.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Speak Heart, make them hear’

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Books of poetry are hard to review, because poetry is so subjective. What resonates with one reader leaves the next cold. Furthermore, when poems have been translated from another language, often something is lost. Speak Heart, Make them hear by Charly Wilde is a collection of love poems by a Bulgarian poet who is a bestseller in her own country. Based upon her own personal experiences, these short verses capture the angst and beauty of love, fulfilled and unfulfilled most effectively.

Interesting imagery and excellent use of the language. Kudos to the poet and the translator.

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

Review of ‘Outsourcing: The Beginner’s Guide to Hiring Virtual Assistants’

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If you’re a solo entrepreneur, chances are you spend a lot of time performing tasks that could more easily and profitably be performed by someone else. If, however, you’re operating on a tight budget, taking on more employees in your business might not be an option. Not really a problem; there’s always the less expensive option of using virtual assistants. Outsourcing certain routine, repetitive tasks might be just the thing you need to be able to refocus your time more profitably.

Outsourcing: The beginner’s Guide to Hiring Virtual Assistants by Robert Lawrence is a brief tutorial on how to deploy outsourced help in your business. A good starting point if you’re just starting out in your business.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Afterlife of Abdul’

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What happens when you die? Abdul, a young Londoner, is rushing on his motorbike over rain-soaked streets to meet his girlfriend, when a car appears in front of him, and he’s unable to avoid the collision. Jenny, a six-year-old girl, is in the backseat of the car. She and Abdul die in the crash. Although they’ve never met before, their souls connect when Azrael, the Angel of Death, comes to collect them.

The Afterlife of Abdul by Ayse Hafiza is a short story that explores the unknown realm of what happens after death. An interesting tale that bridges the gap between living and dying in a sympathetic way; a profound exploration of existence, and an entertaining read.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Watcher Within’

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Frank Silver is apartment-bound and suffering from severe agoraphobia. He spends much of his time observing the world outside his apartment, in particular, the Kabbalah Institute across the street. One Friday night he observes an attractive woman entering the institute, a place that is supposed to be closed at that time, and denied to women at all times. When he sees a second women enter the place a week later, and then learns that a prostitute’s body has been found in the sewer drain nearby, his suspicions are aroused—he knows that something evil is taking place, but he finds it difficult to convince an overworked homicide detective of that.

His persistence, and some amateur sleuthing on the part of his housekeeper, finally gets the detective to visit the institute, an action that will soon have dire consequences for Silver. Joseph Goodman, an eccentric Talmudic scholar with macabre leanings, had been evicted from the institute, but had secreted himself in one of its unused spaces, from which he pursued his deadly quest. When he inadvertently learns that Silver’s watching has threatened his haven, he vows revenge, and takes it by kidnapping Silver’s recently acquired girlfriend.

The Watcher Within by William Appel is noir fiction at its finest. Tension and suspense begins on the first page, and builds increasingly to an explosive climax as Silver must overcome his phobia in order to save his girlfriend’s life.

This one’s a typical Appel page-turner that, even though you know the killer’s identity from the start, has you wondering how it will turn out. The obstacles faced by the hero seem insurmountable, and on several occasions, you’re sure he’s hit a brick wall—then, he hits back. This is a book that takes the reader deep into the darkest depths of human depravity, a journey that will leave you breathless.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Positive Thinking’

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You are what you think. Too many people are bogged down in the swamp of negative thinking, and never seem to be able to see the positive side of life. With effort and practice, you can learn to refocus your thoughts and develop the habit of positive thinking.

Positive Thinking by George Ripley is a short book of tips to rid yourself of pessimism and get on the road to a more positive, fulfilling life. While I found many helpful hints in this book, the number of typos and grammatical errors (that could be eliminated with a better job of editing and proofreading) detract a bit from its overall value. It would also be helpful to know a bit more about the author’s credentials as an aid in assessing the validity of his claims. The quotes supporting his thesis were helpful.

With better editing and a display of credentials this could be a five-star book. Unfortunately, I’m only able to give it three stars.

Review of ‘Hidden Agenda’

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When special operations soldier, Dan Roy, seconded to a super-secret black ops agency, stumbles across a secret cache of American weapons in Afghanistan while hunting a high-value target, he’s accused of working with the enemy. When people around him start to die, he discovers a plot to attack America where it hurts. Then, his best friend and mentor is killed, and, working with the dead man’s daughter, Dan sets out to thwart a plot that, if successful, could start World War III.

Hidden Agenda by Mick Bose is a fast-paced action thriller that pits one determined man against sinister forces with a deadly hidden agenda. The action starts white-hot from the beginning, and never lets up until the final pages. This could be a superior action novel, but for the many grammatical and typographical problems throughout. Even with the problems, it’s a fun story for action junkies.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Murder House’

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When the Baxters, newly moved to London, bought the house at 54 Belleview Street, they were ill-prepared for the amount of fixing-up that would be required. They were even less prepared for the body found in one of the boarded up fireplaces.

DCI Isaac Cook and his murder investigation team are then tasked with solving a 30-year-old murder, a challenging case where the witnesses keep dying, and old secrets are well-hidden. Murder House by Phillip Strang is an interesting peek into British social dynamics and police procedure, with plenty of false leads and red herrings that would be an even better mystery if there’d been more showing and less telling. The telling made it a bit of a slog, but on the whole it was rather enjoyable.

I received an advanced review copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Enchant’

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Enchant by Demelza Carlton is a retelling of the story ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and it’s definitely not for children.

When the wicked king, Thorn, forces the enchantress, Zuleika, to cast a terrible spell, and then imprisons her in his castle, she flees to wander the world and provide magical help to those in need. In her wanderings she comes upon an island, whose ruler, Prince Vardan, has been cursed to be seen as a beast. Repulsed at first, Zuleika soon finds herself warming to the man who, under the beastly exterior, is really a kind person. She’s determined to undo the curse upon him, but even her power is taxed to the limits—especially when she learns that it was Thorn’s curse that turned his brother, Vardan, into a beast.

This story follows the general theme of the original ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ in that the beautiful woman finds herself drawn to the Beast because of his kindness which enables her to see past his horrific exterior appearance. The machinations and action from that point on, though, are completely different, and makes for entertaining reading. Carlton is a competent story-teller, whose work is worthy of note.

I give her four stars for this one.

Review of ‘7 Simple Steps to Use the Law of Attraction Effectively’

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Karma is the belief that what you give the universe, the universe gives back to you. If you feel that your life’s not going right, you just might need to adjust your thinking.

John Ward’s 7 Simple Steps to Use the Law of Attraction Effectively is a handy little guide to making the necessary self-adjustments to get your life back on track. From visualization to thinking positively, to meditation, these hints can be applied by anyone, and are a validation of the axiom, ‘as you think, so you are.’

While the grammar in this book is a bit clunky, it is still a useful guide for anyone who wants a simple, easy-to-apply method for self-improvement.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Red Noon at Helltowne’

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The hunter, Oborren, and his not-so-merry band of eccentric allies are enroute to Helltowne, on a mission of revenge. Not only must they face the town’s hellish (pun intended) supernatural threats, but they must contend with the philosophy of its red dwarf masters and their leader, Commissar General Noel. The philosophy of Equalitarianism is a threat to the human race and all the other beings, but an even bigger threat is their inability to get along with each other.

Red Noon at Helltowne by Dan Oberchuk is a book that defies genre classification. It has elements of fantasy and magic, science run amok, blood-curdling and blood-letting action, and as much humor as you can stomach. As you follow this band of misfits on their quest, it’s hard to know who to root for. Sure, Noel is a bully who is trying to install a Soviet-style rule over all, and destroy the human race in the process, but our ‘heroes’ have many stains on their escutcheons as well. Nevertheless, you’ll find yourself rooting for them—after all, genocide’s a bummer.

This was an entertaining bit of escapist reading that had me chuckling as often as cringing.

I give this rib-tickler five stars.

Review of ‘Excalibur Rising: Book One’

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At one time, Marcus Ryan was a rising star, the host of his own treasure exploration show. Now, though, in his mid-forties, his show has been cancelled, he’s lost his family, and is reduced to being the curator for rare relics for a Vegas Mafioso. When an old friend arrives at his hotel with an improbable tale of the fabled King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, and is later poisoned in front of Marcus, his boss makes him an offer he can’t refuse—find that sword. They rush off to Florida to consult with Violet Chambray, a con woman who just happens to have the ‘gift’ of being able to find things.

Pushed into an unwilling alliance, Marcus and Violet go off to England, where in the mist-shrouded moors, they uncover a secret that can change their lives forever; provided they can survive the encounter.

Excalibur Rising: Book One by Eileen Enwright Hodgetts is an amusing mix of Medieval history, paranormal, humor, and violence, in a story that spans centuries and across dimensions, adding a new twist to the mythical tales of Camelot and the Round Table. The author pulls you into the story and holds you fast as she takes you on a whirlwind ride through fantastic settings and improbable events. I can only describe this book as ‘not-put-downable.’

I received a free copy. A nice rainy-day read. I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Bittersweet Memories’

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When Anne Barnes’ childhood friend, Martha, dies, and shortly afterwards, she learns that her estranged younger brother, Ned, has also died, she’s plagued by family memories; in particular, a family tragedy involving Ned that caused rifts in the family that after 50 years still haven’t healed. As a bequest, Ned has left her his last invention, a Memory Enhancer (ME); a machine that enables the user to plug into past events and remember them in vivid, accurate detail. He’s leaving it to her to decide what to do with it.

As Anne uses the ME to relive moments from her past, she discovers just how unreliable unaided memory can be, and how events from the past, remembered differently by the participants, can have long-lasting impacts on human relationships.

Bittersweet Memories by Lynn Osterkamp is a compelling novel of human relationships and memory that once you start reading you’ll be unable to put down. As Anne struggles with her decision, contending with her own demons, she’s besieged by her family, and by others who, having learned about the ME, want it for their own purposes. The author has created unforgettable characters, and a story that will catch your attention and hold it like a vice. While the ME is a fictional device, the idea that assistance in resolving memory conflicts is a mixed blessing is imminently credible.

This is a solid five-star read!

Review of ‘What She Inherits’

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During her junior year in college, Angela Ellis’s mother dies, and she returns to her childhood home in South Carolina to settle the estate. In her old home, she encounters her mother’s ghost, and strange messages that unsettle her. Enlisting the assistance of a ghost hunter, she tries to decipher the messages. What she learns is disturbing; was Deb, really her mother, or was her entire life a lie?

In the meantime, on Devil’s Back Island in Maine, Casey, living with her aunt, is also troubled. Hesitant to make human connections, she lives a life adrift.

As Angela learns more about her background, the lives of the two women slowly intersect until they both discover what they lost two decades earlier.

What She Inherits by Diane v. Mulligan is an intriguing story that is part paranormal, part coming-of-age, and part epic fiction about human relationships, and the enduring impact they have on people’s lives. The author switches between Angela and Casey in a story that builds the suspense chapter-by-chapter until it reaches a satisfying conclusion. You’ll become so invested in the two women’s quest for closure, you’ll find the supernatural elements taking a distant background role in the story.

I found this to be a thoroughly entertaining read. I received a free copy of this book.

I give this story four stars.

Review of ‘Psychology’

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When I downloaded this book, I thought I was purchasing Understanding Human Psychology by Kevin Jobson, but what came up on my Kindle was Psychology by Hezi Medina. After reading the downloaded book, and frankly, being somewhat disappointed, I went back to the Amazon page and ‘looked inside’ the advertised book. I found that, other than the title and author, they seemed to be the same, so I am left completely confused as to what happened.

Basically, the book starts off talking about psychology, but then spends the bulk of the contents discussing the subject of becoming a mentalist and performing mental parlor tricks. It does contain some gems of self-improvement and emotional control, but the problems with grammar and the typos tend to detract from its credibility. In addition, with no information provided about the author, I have no way of determining his credentials to address the subject.

The bottom line is that the book doesn’t live up to either title really. It does contain a few neat parlor tricks that could be used to entertain your friends and family, but I would be hesitant about recommending it as a read for anyone seriously wanting to understand human psychology.

Regrettably, I can only give this one two stars.

Review of ‘Burke’s Revenge’

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College professor Henry Shaw, seething over being relegated to a small, backwater college in Fayetteville, NC, has decided to betray his country and join IS. His IS masters have accepted him, and ordered him to return home to foment terror, and to organize an IS terror cell in the very heart of the home to some of America’s most elite anti-terror forces. When he begins his campaign of terror, he runs afoul of ex-Delta Force commander, Bob Burke, retired from the army and now CEO of a small telecoms company.

As bombs began to go off and people die, Burke and his elite band of brothers find themselves up against a man who loves killing, but even more troubling, someone is using him as a distraction from an even more horrendous act. Duty gets Burke involved, but when Shaw kidnaps his wife and daughter, it becomes personal.

Burke’s Revenge by William F. Brown is book three in the Bob Burke thriller series, and it continues in the same vein; non-stop action, believable characters and scenarios, and high stakes. The author knows his military weapons and tactics, but even more important, knows how to tell a good story that keeps you on the edge of your chair.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give Brown five stars for this one.

Review of ‘Letting Go of Mommy Guilt’

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Anyone who has ever been a parent knows that it’s one of the hardest, most thankless jobs on earth. Worse, society puts an unfair burden of guilt on mothers—expecting them to do and be everything. Letting Go of Mommy Guilt by Lorelei Kraft is an amazing how-to book for moms that gives the ‘Seven Keys’ to sensible parenting, as well as how to survive the experience.

Written in simple, often humorous, language, and taking experiences from the author’s own life as an entrepreneur and single mom of two children, this is a must-read, not just for moms, but for parents of either gender.

I give this handy little guide five stars.