Author: Charles Ray

Review of ‘Motown’

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In the 1960s, Detroit was in transition. The auto industry was raking in big bucks, but was threatened by a consumer advocate who was calling GM cars ‘death traps,’ and the city’s black population was chafing at the discrimination they suffered, reflecting the mood throughout the United States at the time. To add fuel to the flame, organized crime was moving to displace the black criminals from their traditional turf. Into all of this was thrust Rick Amery, a former cop who had been forced off the force by trumped-up corruption charges. Rick is hired by another former cop, now working as security chief for GM to find dirt on the consumer activist, while Quincy, a boss in the black numbers racket, is facing off against the son of the former Italian mob boss who was deported back to Italy. In the background of this swirling storm of chaos is Lew Canada, head of a special police task force that reports directly to Motown’s mayor who has national political ambitions.

Motown is the second book in the Detroit Novels series by Loren D. Estleman. While the main human characters carry the story well, the true main character in this drama is the city itself, and how it fares in a time of tumultuous change. The roles played by the recalcitrant auto industry, and its blind adherence to an outmoded business model, politicians reluctant to embrace the changes that are inevitable, and the dying social mores of a society that kept certain people on the lower rungs because of race chronicle the death and partial rebirth of one of America’s most vibrant cities.

This story moves with the pace of a super-charged engine running on high-octane fuel, and will keep your interest from beginning to end.

Five stars!

Review of ‘A Million to One’

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In One in a Million by Tony Faggioli, Kyle Fasano is given a chance at redemption. He is the millionth, which means that by sacrificing himself, he creates the opportunity for a million souls to be called to repent. Some will answer the call, but some will not.

In A Million to One, the journey continues. In hell, Kyle struggles to learn what his true mission is, while Detective Napoleon Villa, a man who believes in heaven and hell, has volunteered to accompany the Gray Man to hell to find him. In the meantime, back on earth, Villa’s partner finds a case that is somehow tied to Fasano; a serial killer who heeds the voice of the Other, and Fasano’s wife is fighting off demons who seem determined to destroy what’s left of her family.

The reader is taken on a whipsaw journey between hell and hell on earth as the forces of Good and Evil battle for dominance, a journey that will leave your blood chilled and have you shrinking from every shadow.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Faery Dust’

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Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman, the gangster wizard, is back and as bad as ever. When the elf, Elion, breaks the wards to his house and offers him a job; steal the Raeth Naeg, Beowulf’s legendary belt, for which he’s willing to pay the princely sum of a million dollars, Arthur’s reluctant, but you don’t say no to an elf, who also happens to be one of the Fallen, an elf who has been exiled to the land of the humans.

In Faery Dust by Al K. Line, the second book in the Wildcat Wizard series, Arthur has to deal with an enigmatic, but extremely powerful, elf, said elf’s jealous siblings, a teenage daughter who is a witch in training, and Vicki, his new, untrained sidekick. Like the first book in this series, the reader is treated to a  hero who is often anything but heroic—he kills a thug who abused his daughter and feels no real guilt about it, does some pretty gruesome things to other beings who get in the way of the completion of his mission, and worries when his favorite hat is vandalized.

If you like your paranormal story to be bloody and bloody funny, you’ll love this book. For readers who like their hero to be flawed, but still principled, it’s all there in Faery Dust.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book.

Another five-star offering.

Review of ‘Dead Lemons’

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After losing the use of his legs in an auto accident, Finn moves to the far south of New Zealand, as far south as you can go without ending up in Antarctica. In the smuggler’s cottage, he meets his strange neighbors, the Zoyl brothers, and learns of a young girl and her father, missing and presumed dead for decades—and, it’s all somehow connected to the Zoyls. In therapy to come to grips with his disability, Finn becomes obsessed with unearthing the mysteries of the past, a search that puts his life in danger.

Dead Lemons by Finn Bell is an intricate mystery that opens with Finn fighting for his life as the Zoyls endeavor to kill him, and then switches back and forth as it details how he unfolds the intricate puzzle of the former whaling town’s deadly past. The tension is palpable, and the details of history and culture the author skillfully weaves into the plot put you in the middle of the action from start to finish.

The denouement caught even this avid mystery reader completely by surprise. This one will give you chills.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Heirs (Book One): Secrets and Lies’

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Heirs (Book One): Secrets and Lies by Elleby Harper is book one of a trilogy that follows the lives of the members of two dynasties; Maizent, heir to a glamorous European throne, and Charley, daughter of the President. Set mainly in 1985, and switching frequently among the many characters, it follows Maizent and Charley in their love affair that is threatened by secrets from their mothers’ pasts.

The prose is okay, and the colorful history and setting are described well. The cliff hanger ending, though, is a bit disappointing. It’s as if the author is using book one to prime readers for the following books, but it leaves too much unanswered to really pique my interest.

I give it good marks for the author’s ability with prose, but can only give it three stars for the weak ending.

Fur and Feathers

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I like taking pictures of just about everything, but animals and birds are my all-time favorites. I’ve photographed animals of all types everywhere I’ve traveled, across the United States and during my travels abroad, and I’d like to share some of them with you. Antelope (not sure of the species) in the savanna of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. A bird pauses after drinking from a fountain at Tswalu Resort in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. A stork in the grass at the edge of the taxi way of the airport in Arusha, Tanzania. A lone goose in a shaded woodland in Kleve, Germany. A vervet monkey in Zimbabwe. Water bird on lily pads in a Zimbabwean lake. Elephants in Zimbabwe.

Source: Fur and Feathers

Step into spring with free e-books!

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To celebrate the arrival of spring, each week in March I’m offering a Kindle version of one of my books free. The first will be Buffalo Soldier: The Piano, one of the best in the Buffalo Soldier series, which will be available March 1 – 5 for Kindle or Kindle apps.  To see the other books available, check out my publisher page on Facebook, where you’ll also find other book-related information. To get The Piano, click on the link below on or after March 1.

https://read.amazon.com/kp/card?asin=B01G43PQC8&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_tDfQyb7TVFP23&tag=freeflowofide-20

Review of ‘Gun for Hire’

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Denver PI Reed Ferguson is asked by his friend Darcy Cranston to talk to her boyfriend who she suspects is cheating on her. When he meets the man, Reed gets the feeling that something is amiss, so he stakes his apartment out to get to the bottom of it, and finds that there is definitely something afoot.

Gun for Hire by Renee Pawlish is a short story about a PI who has a thing for old noir movies and classic rock. It follows Reed as he and his not-too-bright friends, Ace and Deuce, trail the errant boyfriend who has gone out of town with his ex-girlfriend. What they discover, though, is more than just a little action on the side, and is classic Reed Ferguson.

Action, suspense, and humor are the hallmarks of this series, and it’s all in this story. It doesn’t add anything new to a fan’s knowledge of the hero, but makes for entertaining light reading.

This one is good, but not one of the author’s best. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Pursuit’

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Doc is a professional hit man for the Organization. He has a contract to find and kill renegade politician Paul Bradley, but he has a problem; half the Organization wants Bradley dead, but half, led by his brother Jimmy want him interrogated. As Doc struggles with his confusing mission, the bodies start piling up. As if he doesn’t have enough problems, Doc has to deal with the women in his life. One is his ex-wife, and the other is Connie, a tough gal who is withholding information about Bradley from him. His solution would be to kill them, but Doc has never even hit a woman, much less killed one. In the meantime, Bradley has taken up dog racing and he leads everyone on a merry chase until the big race of the season when everyone comes together in an explosive and bloody encounter.

Pursuit by John McAllister is a complex novel. It gives us a look at events as they unfold through the eyes of a number of characters. The main two characters, though, are Doc and Jimmy who struggle with their positions within the Organization and issues of mutual trust. Seldom have I liked a story where the principal characters are bad guys, but these two are a notable exception. They demonstrate that even the bad guys can sometimes have redeeming character traits.

If you like British mystery, even though this story is set in Ireland, you’ll like Pursuit.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Fountaincorp Security’

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Dorothea Ohmie is a decorated Marine and a paroled war criminal. She’s starting a new job as a provisional recruit with Fountaincorp Security’s special operations unit. Her first mission, though, goes off the rails when the space station her unit is assigned to secure is infested by people turned to zombies by illegal nano-tech experiments. They rescue the one survivor, and find themselves hip-deep in corporate espionage, high-level corruption, and human trafficking on a galactic scale. While Dorothea struggles to save the young girl, she is also consumed with the desire to get answers surrounding her own kidnapping and abuse when she was a teenager.

Fountaincorp Security by Watson Davis is a star-busting romp through space, as she and her buddies go up against the Family behind the trafficking operations, while having to contend with bureaucratic and political maneuvering by their own organization.

Think Rambo meets Darth Vader and you’ll have an idea what this story’s like. The hero is flawed, but indomitable, and you wouldn’t want to be on her bad side, believe me.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give Watson four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Carrie’s Gift’

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Award-winning author Michael Lister is best known for his John Jordan mystery novels, evocative stories about a chaplain in the Florida prison system. In Carrie’s Gift Lister demonstrates clearly that his talents transcend the mystery genre. Ethan is back home twenty years after his high school graduation to deliver the eulogy at a classmate’s funeral. The only thing he really wants, though, is to be alone with Carrie, the lost love of his life.

Lister writes this sad romance with the deft touch of a poet and the skill of a master mystery writer, taking the reader on a profound journey into the human heart and mind. This story will bring tears to your eyes.

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

Paul Laurence Dunbar

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One of America’s greatest poets.

Espiritu en Fuego/A Fiery Spirit

Many years ago when visiting my Mom’s hometown of Dayton, Ohio I went with my Aunt Helen James to visit Dunbar house which was the home of Celebrated African-American Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. It was a fascinating visit and I highly recommend visiting this as well as many other African-American Landmarks in the United States.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/paul-laurence-dunbar

poet

Paul Laurence Dunbar

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Born on June 27, 1872, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African-American poets to gain national recognition. His parents Joshua and Matilda Murphy Dunbar were freed slaves from Kentucky. His parents separated shortly after his birth, but Dunbar would draw on their stories of plantation life throughout his writing career. By the age of fourteen, Dunbar had poems published in the Dayton Herald. While in high school…

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STEAMFUNK WILD WEST: Black Lawmen and Outlaws in the Age of Steam!

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STEAMFUNK WILD WEST: Black Lawmen and Outlaws in the Age of Steam! We continue our League of Extraordinary Black People Series with an in-depth look at those who enforced – and those who gave the f…

Source: STEAMFUNK WILD WEST: Black Lawmen and Outlaws in the Age of Steam!

Review of ‘Promise You Won’t Tell’

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PI Dani Ripper has a crazy list of clients, which is okay because Dani’s a bit on the wacky side herself. She’s just waiting for the perfect case, when 17-year-old high school student, Wiley Freeman comes to her office claiming that something might have happened to her at a sleepover she attended at a friend’s house.

Dani takes the case pro bono, and finds herself up to her eyeballs in the strangest case she’s ever had.

Promise You Won’t Tell by John Locke is a wacky mystery that follows along as Dani turns over rock after rock, uncovering dirty laundry and secrets aplenty, with an ending that will smack you between the eyes like a Louisville slugger.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Burke’s War’

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On his way back home to Chicago from Washington, DC, as his plane is landing, telecom CEO Bob Burke sees a man strangle a woman on a rooftop near O’Hare Airport. The problem is, no one believes him. Burke, already in a struggle with his soon-to-be ex-wife for control of his company, finds himself having to fight the Chicago mob, crooked local cops, an over-zealous U.S. attorney, and a psychopathic doctor to put things right. The average guy would give up in the face of such odds, but the former Ranger and Delta Force commander is not the average guy, and he never gives up. When people he cares about are threatened, it becomes personal, and the bad guys find out just how stupid it is to mess with Bob Burke, especially when he calls on his old special ops buddies for help.

Some people might find it hard to believe that a passenger on an airplane could see someone on the ground clearly enough to identify them. Having made many landings at the old Hong Kong airport, where planes wove between high-rise buildings on the final approach, I can assure you it is possible, and for someone trained as a special operations observer, credible. I can recall landings in Hong Kong where I was able to see the buttons on laundry hanging on balconies, or what people were eating for supper. You don’t see it for long, but if you’re trained, you can see long enough.

Burke’s War by William F. Brown is a knuckle duster of the first order, with bad guys falling like ten pens at a championship, and enough knock-down action to satisfy the most hardcore action addict. If you like thrillers where the good guy goes up against impossible odds, you’ll love this book.

I give Williams four stars for this first book in the series.

Review of ‘White Jaguar’

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Herpetologist, Ava Rush, living and working with the Indians of the Amazon, looking for medicinal cures from cocoa and snake venom, stumbles across the drug operation run by the vicious drug lord known as the White Jaguar. When she is killed, her brother, Richard, a stock broker, travels to the Amazon to avenge her death. With the help Nicole, an American Olympian whose severe arthritis Ava cured, he and the tribes who adored his sister wage war on the White Jaguar.

White Jaguar by William Appel is a strong story, contrasting the endangered life of the indigenous people with the greedy lifestyle of Westerners; some come to bring civilization to the savages, and others merely looking for profit. The Indians are, unlike many stories of this ilk, not shown as innocents, but fully-fleshed cultural entities willing to risk all to preserve their way of life, and the non-Indian characters span the spectrum, making for full-bodied fiction that will keep you flipping pages.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘An Empty Tree’

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Life is like people tossing pebbles into streams; the pebbles cause ripples that spread, and as they intersect with other ripples each life is changed. The ripples are neither good nor bad, the people might be good or bad, and how each life is changed depends upon the person.

An Empty Tree by Glenn Trust, book one in the Blue Eyes series, is a thriller that follows the lives of several people as their ripples intersect. A strange blue-eyed girl who meets a killer on the run, a divorced man from Georgia leaving his broken life behind to start anew in the west, and an Iowa highway patrolman who takes his job seriously; along with a diverse cast of supporting characters, their lives intersect in fateful ways that will leave the reader wondering about the nature of good and bad, and with the realization that nothing is ever what it seems at first glance.

The author has provided two endings to this chilling story; one as dark as a moonless night, and one that, while less dark, still leaves unanswered the question of the meaning of good or bad.

Each ending is satisfying in its own way, and which you prefer depends upon your unique view of life. Whether you stop reading after the first ending, or, if curiosity impels you to read the alternate ending, I can guarantee that you will enjoy this story.

Five stars!

Review of ‘How to Meditate’

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How to Meditate by Tahlia Newland is a brief, but comprehensive book on the value of meditation. It includes a history of meditation and its benefits, and has a thorough set of guidelines for achieving the most from meditation. The author dispels many of the myths that Westerners have about meditation and gives complete guidelines for incorporating meditation in your daily life.

If you’re already meditating, or considering starting, this book will set you on the right path to get the most from it. Its easy-to-read style makes it a must-have for beginners and a good jolt to the brain cells of veterans as well.

I received a complimentary e-file of this book, and have already found several extremely useful nuggets of wisdom to incorporate in my own daily meditation routine.

Five stars.

Review of ‘Russian Hill’

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FBI Agent Abby Kane works civil cases in the San Francisco field office, and is happy to no longer have to track down serial killers, her specialty when she worked in Hong Kong. But, when a fellow agent stumbles across the body of a young woman in Muir Woods with an axe in her chest, her boss assigns her to look into it. Then, SFPD gets a case that also looks like it could be the work of a serial killer, and she’s asked to consult with them and lend them the benefit of her expertise. Working with SFPD Detective Kyle Kang, Abby begins to realize that the cases might be connected.

She and Kyle find themselves on the trail of a duo of killers who not only kill for the thrill of it, but also seem to be playing some kind of macabre game. Their probing leads them to a network that appears to be orchestrating killings on a global scale.

Russian Hill by Ty Hutchinson is a thriller and police procedural combined in chilling action that pits the two against a cunning and deadly situation that could cost them their lives. The action is nonstop and will keep you on the edge of your chair from the beginning to the startling and bloody conclusion.

I received a free copy of this book.

This one is five stars!