Author: Charles Ray

Review of ‘Seattle Reign’

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Retired police detective turned private eye, Pat Ruger, is at a crossroads. He’s still getting over the murder of his fiancée, adjusting to his new girlfriend, and wondering what he’ll do with the rest of his life. When a local poet, a friend of his new flame, is murdered, she asks him to look into it. Like a firehouse dog at the sound of the alarm, he jumps to it. From Denver to Seattle, he finds more than the change in weather to be a bother, though, when he stumbles upon a North Korean plot to steal American art, and his protégé, Jake, is kidnapped by the art thieves.

Seattle Reign by Jack Huber is book number five in the Pat Ruger series, and, unfortunately for those of us who have come to love the slightly over-the-hill detective, reads like it’ll be the last. Non-stop action as Pat goes from dodging murderous North Koreans to saving a group of young girls from being sex-trafficked to rescuing Jake. Shorter than the previous books, it is nonetheless a good read, that will leave you satisfied that all is right with the world—except for the fact that it seems that Pat is getting out of the PI business. Oh, what will Pat Ruger fans do?

I received a free copy of this book, and give it four stars—mainly because there doesn’t appear to be a sequel in the works.

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Review of ‘700 Jokes, Brainteasers, Tongue Twisters, Knock Knock Jokes For Kids’

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Do you need an ab workout, but don’t want to do a lot of crunches and get all sweaty? You might try laughing. This little book, which takes about an hour to read if you take it slow—and, I recommend raking it slow—will give your abs a great workout. Although the title says that it’s for kids, an old graybeard like me will still find it amusing enough to get a good ab tightening. In fact, I’m not sure that everything in this book is really appropriate doe kids, not the younger ones anyway. Do they really need to know that an intergluteal cleft is a butt crack? Maybe I’m a bit of a prude due to my age, but this is not a factoid I’m likely to share with my grandchildren. This is a truly funny book, though, and the brainteasers will exercise your mind as well as your body.

Even the author’s name, Justin Jelly, is funny.

A nice addition to your book list; it’s just too bad it’s not also in paperback. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Three Strikes, You’re Dead’

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At a rustic resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, PI Eddie Shoes is looking forward to enjoying a weekend getaway with her mother, Chava. Out for jog, she runs across an injured man. Then a forest fire starts, and the man dies before she can get him to safety, and she comes very close to being consumed by the fire herself. Before he died, though, he asked her to find his ‘abducted’ daughter. What is Eddie to do? In order to honor the dying man’s request, she has to defy local law enforcement, and work with her father, a mob ‘clean-up’ man. But, that’s Eddie, she always keeps a promise, even if it kills her.

Three Strikes, You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell is an exciting read. Eddie’s race against the all-consuming flames was so deftly written I could feel the heat, and boy, does this author know how to throw curve balls in the clue department. There was no cheating, though, because the real culprits were introduced early. It’s just that she planted enough false, but credible, clues to keep you looking in the wrong direction.

As I said, it’s an exciting and fun read (well, I didn’t say fun, at first, but it was). Don’t miss this one. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four and a half stars.

Strangely, for the second time, Amazon.com is rejecting reviews of a book, with the notice that there was strange reviewing behavior. I wonder if this has to do with the publisher or the author. I’d appreciate hearing from any readers who’ve had similar experiences.

Review of ‘Factor Man’

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When I review a book, I usually do one of two things; if I’m not captivated by the first chapter I stop reading and give it, at best a tepid review or I don’t review it at all, or I skim through the rest, and give it my best shot at an honest review. With Matt Ginsberg’s Factor Man, though, my technique was turned on its ear. I was thoroughly hooked on the book from the first few paragraphs but found that skimming was not an option. I had to read it slowly and carefully, absorbing every word, lest I miss some crucial piece of information. For the first time since I started reviewing books regularly (again, after a long hiatus) I found myself reading every word.

The cast of characters in this book is a long one, and each character is given full play. The reader is not only shown their actions and words, but their motivations, desires, and fears. From William Burkett, a savvy tech journalist who introduces Factor Man (FM) to the world; the Chinese spy, Janet Liu, who wants to destroy FM in order to save h er beloved country; as well as an eclectic assortment of characters, major and minor. But, the most intriguing character, the one from whom the title is derived, is FM himself. A scientist with a strong sense of integrity, caught up in a complex politically motivated world, his only wish is to do the right thing, and survive the experience.

This book has it all—in spades! A hero who has the world arrayed against him, he has to learn spy tradecraft, while preparing the world for his discovery of ‘God’s algorithm’, a code that will make obsolete all efforts at keeping electronic files secret. Can he survive long enough to attend his ‘coming-out party’, or will his secret die with him? If you want to know the answer to that question, I strongly recommend that you get a copy of this book and do what I did—read it carefully. It will change your views on Internet privacy and government’s concern for the welfare of its citizens in fundamental ways.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it a resounding five stars!

Review of ‘One Shot’

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Jack Shot is a young man without a care in the world. He has a job as a bartender, lives in one room above the bar, and his biggest challenge is whether or not to let his beautiful co-worker know that he has the hots for her. Then, his life takes a left turn and is never the same. A poem he wrote for his co-worker has changed into an enigmatic riddle. When the riddle later is shown to correspond to real life events, Jack finds that he’s somehow been tapped to be made privy to future events, which he must stop, or people will die. As the mystery deepens, he finds that he must confront demons of his past to stop the most horrific event, and he only gets one shot at it.

One Shot by Brian Gates is, in a word, entertaining and amusing—no, wait, that’s three words, or two if you ignore the ‘and.’ Confused? This story will do that to you. Funny and frightening in turn, it’ll keep your interest right up to the last word of the last page (actually, the period, which is the last thing in the book). Gates knows how to pique your interest and keep you guessing—and reading.

Received a free copy of this book. Loved it.

For some strange reason, I was unable to post a review on Amazon.com–something about possible strange review behavior. Not sure what’s happening, but hope it won’t affect availability of what I found to be a thoroughly entertaining read.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Puzzle of Death’

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On the eve of the untimely demise of an unpleasant, puzzle-loving scientist, envelopes containing puzzle pieces, and a challenge to locate a missing chemical formula and ten million dollars he’s taken from his bank and hidden somewhere are sent to a number of people. But, then, the letter recipients begin to turn up dead, killed by an unknown assailant, or assailants. One of the recipients is Jake Wade, a PI with a checkered record and a propensity to hit back at anyone threatening him.

The action starts with a bang, literally, as a bullying football player is dispatched, and just keeps getting louder and bloodier with each turn of the page, and throughout, Wade is right in the thick of things, trying to find the missing loot, stay one step ahead of whoever is trying to kill him, and investigating the killings, including the one he’s responsible for.

Sound confusing? It is, but in a nice way. Puzzle of Death by Donahue B. Silvis is an action story with so many twists, turns, red herrings, and counterplots, you almost need to keep a chart to keep from losing your place. An anti-hero main character with almost as many flaws as the bad guys—and gals—he’s chasing, that you’ll nonetheless cheer for. A tantalizing story, marred only by the author’s tendency in places to mix past and present tense in the same sentence—I can forgive him for that, I suppose, but hope he’ll take it to heart and not do it in future offerings.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book. I found it a bit choppy in places; not unusual for a first novel, and not a fatal flaw. I give it three and a half stars for effort.

Readers of this blog who would like to enter a raffle for a chance at winning a free copy of the book are invited to go to:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e23ee71d1130/

Review of ‘Eden’

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Those who have power don’t want to give it up and are often reluctant to share it. Those who don’t have power want it and will often go to extremes to acquire it. When the balance of power begins to shift against those who hold power, bad things can happen.

 

When the male-female balance begins to shift drastically in favor of females, the men in power begin taking drastic and deadly steps to redress the situation. Eden by G.C. Julien and Ash S-J is a different kind of post-apocalyptic novel. The cataclysmic event is not a meteor strike, rising ocean levels, or a nuclear war, but a shift in the birth rate giving women a vast numerical advantage. This leads to all-out gender warfare and the creation of single-gender enclaves at war with each other for survival. Through character shifts and flashbacks the authors show us a dark world that, given the current state of affairs globally, is not an impossible scenario to imagine.

 

In the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation, the actions of a few free-thinking and courageous individuals offer the only glimmer of hope. It is on that hope that the fate of the world rests. A chillingly realistic look at a world that one prays will never come to be. It sucks you in to a whirlpool of action, human angst, violence, and hope, and spits you out at the end breathless.

 

I  received a complimentary copy of this book for review. Without hesitation, I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Read Better Faster’

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If you’re like most people, you were taught to read every word in a sentence or paragraph. While this might be useful when reading instructions, for most other written material, it makes reading a chore. Buck up, though, because Debbie Drum’s Read Better Faster will help you learn techniques to boost your reading speed, and your retention of what you read as well.

This insightful little book takes you step by step through methods for learning a new way to take in the written word. You’re likely to find that as you read it, your reading speed is increasing—provided you take her advice.

A must-have book for anyone who is required to read a lot, and a really nice literary acquisition for anyone who loves to read.

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

Review of ‘Origin of Legends and the Secrets of the North’

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Brothers Baldr and Thor lived relatively happy lives as orphans after their parents drowned in a frozen lake. But, their world was torn asunder when they noticed strange green lights flashing on a mountain top near their sleepy little town. With their friends, they set out to solve the mystery of the flashing lights but are soon in too deep as they must contend with the freezing arctic weather and an ancient power. In order to survive, they must solve the secret of what lives within the mountain.

Origins of Legends and the Secrets of the North by Adison Runberg is a thrilling tale of adventure, mystery, and magic, that follows the brothers, their friends, Sophia and Nala, and a loyal canine they encounter along the way, as they penetrate ancient secrets and uncover the basis of legends that had been, until that time, only stories.

An interesting story that offers an unusual take on the Nordic legends, and a worthwhile read for a cold spring day.

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

Review of ‘Lost Hope’

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After concluding a messy battle with a slimy beast, and completing the assigned retrieval, Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman, and his sidekick, the homicidal housewife, Vicky, go to get their payment. But, their client, ‘Juice’, has decided that he wants some ‘excitement’ in his life. After summoning the Hangman, and ordering him to kill his mother, Martha, Juice hooks up with Arthur and Vicky, and gets them started on a dangerous escapade that threatens not only their lives, but the lives of their loved ones.

Lost Hope by Al K. Line is book number six in the Wildcat Wizard series, and, just like the first five, has a generous helping of matricide, monstercide, and just about every other form of offing bad guys. Whipped back and forth between his normal plane of existence and a few unimaginable other worlds, Arthur decides that his only way out is to send Juice and his minions to their final rest. But, his plans are complicated by the appearance of an old nemesis with an agenda of his own.

If this book doesn’t get your juices flowing, you, my friend, are juiceless. This is without a doubt, the best book of this series, and I can’t wait to see what The Hat gets up to next.

I received a free copy of this book, and I give it five stars. It shines in the universe of paranormal adventure books.

Review of ‘Murder in Notting Hill’

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Two women are murdered, in the same manner, within an hour of each other. One, a wealthy white socialite in upscale Holland Park, the other, a black cleaning woman in the crime-riddled, working class neighborhood of Notting Hill. DCI Isaac Cook knows the two crimes are connected, but is pressed to determine how. He and his team have to deal with the area’s street gangs, the bizarre secrets of the upper crust, and the byzantine maneuvering of London’s police hierarchy, as bodies begin to accumulate.

Murder in Notting Hill by Phillip Strang brings DCI Cook and his team back with a vengeance, as the erstwhile homicide investigator navigates the murky waters of gang warfare, class conflict, and the intrigues within the police bureaucracy. The action moves at a frenetic pace, as Cook and his crew engage in a multi-front struggle to bring the guilty to justice—regardless of their station or class.

This book is, like the first five in this series, a real page-turner, mixing police procedure with insightful looks into the personal lives of the protagonists. I received a free copy of this book, and I give it a solid four stars.

Review of ‘Soul of Stone’

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Gabriel Stone, the lost angel and gambler supreme, is back, and badder than ever. Draxil, the ex-Prince of Hell, has been reawakened, restarting an old feud with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They demand that he be turned over to them, or they will destroy Earth. Gabriel, though, has a problem. Draxil is linked to Aurora, for whom Gabriel is guardian, and if he dies, so does she. In order to prevent destruction, Gabriel must reunite Draxil with his team of demons, who, unfortunately, are either caged in Hell or scattered across the many planes of existence.

Gabriel’s challenge; break the demons out of Hell. Quite a gamble, and one he can’t afford to lose.

Soul of Stone by Leo Romero is the third of the Fallen Angel books, and it takes the reader deeper into the depths of perdition than the mortal mind can fathom. Action and humor war with each other on every page. This one’s a don’t miss for fans of the series.

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

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.

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.