Author: Charles Ray

Review of ‘The Summoned King’

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James Madison Young is a bright high school senior with an interest in a broad range of subjects, especially fantasy and science fiction. When he falls asleep one evening while studying in the library, he wakes up in a strange land, a land where magic is real. He’s been summoned by a wizard, Maynard, who informs that he is to become the king of Kalymbria. Not enough to blow your mind? He’s also informed that he’s to marry a commoner, Julia Roper, a girl who has undeveloped magic powers. Still not convinced this is a story you’d be interested in reading? The nobles of Kalymbria want a king who’ll just rubber stamp their decisions, but James has a mind of his own, and under Maynard’s tutelage, his mission is to reform the kingdom.

The Summoned King by David Neuendorf is a semi-humorous fantasy romp through a magical land that, absent the magic, could be almost any society that currently exists. The author does a pretty good job of merging modern technology and ways of thinking into a world where magic is not the name of a former basketball star. You don’t have to be a fan of fantasy to enjoy reading this one.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Obsession’

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Naomi Bowes follower her father into the woods one night, and what she found was shocking. A girl in the root cellar and evidence of others who’d been there before her. To escape the shadow of being the family of a serial killer, Naomi and her family moved to New York to live with her mother’s brother, and she changed her last name to Carson.

Later as a successful photographer, Naomi finds a place of solitude in Sunrise Cove, and possibly love. But, her past catches up with her when women in Sunrise Cove start dying.

Nora Roberts’ The Obsession is a chilling thriller that delves deep into the minds of its characters, as Naomi and the residents of Sunrise Cove try to identify a killer who stalks and torments his victims before dispatching them. This is one of Roberts best novels that her fans will definitely appreciate.

I received this book as a gift. I give it five stars!

Review of ‘The Silent Sister’

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Riley MacPherson has always believed that her older sister, Lisa, committed suicide when she was a teen. Now, twenty years later, after her father dies, Riley, while cleaning out his house finds evidence that Lisa is still alive. She is in hiding and living under an assumed name. Curiosity gets the better of Riley and she begins to research her family’s past.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain tells the story of two women, separated by two decades, but bound together by a secret that won’t stay buried. The author tells the story from both Riley and Lisa’s point of view, with plenty of clues for the sharp-eyed, but in such a subtle and masterful way, you might, like me, not figure out the astonishing answer until near the end.

A fantastic summertime read that grabbed my interest on the first page, and never let go. I received this book as a gift. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘1/2986’

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Mickaela isn’t a good student. She’s a crackerjack mechanic, but as a girl, and a poor student to boot, there’s no way she’ll be allowed to work as a mechanic. So, she’s decided she might as well kill herself. Then, visiting the generator, she encounters the new Sequencer, an enigmatic official who is feared and respected by everyone in the scattered settlements, which are all that’s left of Earth’s population. She’s stunned when he suggests that she consider becoming his apprentice, a position that means the village idiot would become the most respected resident—and, her family will finally have reason to be proud of her. She accepts, with some trepidation, which is completely warranted, because she might not even survive the apprenticeship.

1/2986 by Annelie Wendeberg is a post-apocalyptic novel of an Earth that has been almost depopulated. What’s left of humanity is consigned to small settlements where obeying the rules, no matter how senseless, is the most valuable trait, and the only people with a sense of the world as an entity are the Sequencers; mysterious people who move from settlement to settlement, ‘inspecting,’ and who knows what else. A fantastic tale that rings true.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Devil’s Grin’

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People are being killed in London, and the police show no interest. When a cholera victim is found floating in the city’s water supply, Dr. Anton Kronberg, England’s most noted bacteriologist, is called in to investigate. There are indications that the dead man was held captive, but with no signs of foul play, the police write it off as just another cholera death. Kronberg thinks differently, as does noted police consultant, Sherlock Holmes, who also immediately discovers Kronberg’s secret; he is a she. Anna Kronberg has been posing as a man, an act that could get her thrown in jail if Sherlock discloses what he knows. But the famous investigator agrees that something foul is afoot, and he and Anna dig deeper and learn that a cabal of renegade doctors, financed by shadowy rich men, are conducting unauthorized medical experiments on the country’s paupers.

The Devil’s Grin by Annelie Wendeberg, puts a woman passing as a man in a society that devalues women as much as it does the poor with one of mystery literature’s most famous characters, in a story that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be proud of. This story has all the clues, red herrings, and amazing deductions Holmes’ fans love in the original stories of Doyle’s most famous creation, keeping close to the character Doyle created, while at the same time offering another view of the tortured genius as he and Anna play cat and mouse with a group of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims.

This is a book that you can’t put down. It keeps you turning pages as you try to match wits with two amazing detectives, similar in their obsessions, yet so different in so many ways. The ending will leave you wanting to know more about Anna Kronberg, and whether or not she and Holmes will meet again, and under what circumstances.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Dark River’

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The rich make mistakes, the poor go to jail. This is the mantra on the streets of Manaus, a sleepy town on the edge of the Amazon rain forest that has become a transit point for the narcotics trade. Colonel Bruno Maurer has been transferred from his job as Sao Paolo Police Commander to head the Bureau of Public Security in Manaus, and when bodies start piling up, he finds himself at loggerheads with Fausto Silveira, a sleazy TV star who has made his fame by always being first on the scene at murders, and has parlayed that into a political position.

Maurer is intent on bringing him down, and he uses Julia Jones, an American freelance journalist looking to break a big narco-trafficking story to resuscitate her fading career. In Manaus, though, no one is safe.

Black River by Carmen Michael is a gritty novel about drugs, corrupt officials, sleazy politics, and journalistic overreach, set in the steamy jungles of the Amazon and the sewer-soaked streets of towns that are barely surviving. A lot of the history that created this mess is given, not in a preachy, or ‘telling’ way, but through the words and actions of the characters. Pretty good noir fiction, that’s also pretty much the ‘way it is.’

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Burned by Magic’

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Sunaya is a hybrid, child of a shape shifter and a mage, living in a world where the application of magic is strictly limited. She’s on the trail of a serial killer, who is decimating the shape shifter population when she’s forced to demonstrate her magic in full view of witnesses, an act that could lead to her execution under the laws of Solantha. She asks permission to present her case to the chief mage, and soon finds herself a captive in his castle while he studies her. Sunaya wants to live, but she also wants to find the killer, and the only way she will be able to do both is to convince the chief mage to help her. But, in order to do that, she has to first learn to trust him.

Burned by Magic by Jasmine Watt is classified as a ‘new’ adult fantasy novel. It has more profanity than is usually found in the genre, and some sexual innuendo. In my view, that doesn’t detract from it; it makes it more entertaining. This is a fantasy world that is more believable because the characters react like feeling individuals instead of magical creatures.

I predict that with time and as the characters and plots mature, this will catch on. I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Dark Promise’

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On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Rylie has it all; until a stranger appears at her door and informs her that she’s her birth mother, and that Rylie is a faery. And, not just any old faery, but one with powers greater than any other faery, powers that will be unleashed when she turns sixteen.

Rylie and her human parents find it all a little hard to believe until she wakes up on her sixteenth birthday with wings and pointed ears—and, with dark faeries trying to kidnap her and take her to the realm of the King of the Dark Faeries.

Things take an even darker turn when they eventually succeed and she’s taken to the faery world, where she finds herself betrothed to the son of the dark faery king, and is forced to make a promise she doesn’t want to keep in order to keep her family alive.

Dark Promise by Julia Crane and Talia Jager is a funny, dark, paranormal romance that, while written for a young adult audience, is actually pretty entertaining for even an old gray-beard like me. You can’t help but like Rylie and her sauciness, and even the faeries have a few redeeming graces. The book ends on something of a question mark, with Rylie caught between two worlds—three if you think of the dark and light faery realms as separate worlds—with an unknown future lying ahead of her. A sneaky sort of way to make sure you’re on the lookout for the sequel, but it’s a fun read, so I’ll not send the dark faeries after the authors.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Of Fear and Faith’

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FBI Special Agent Assefa Berber is on the trail of a serial killer, one possessing preternatural powers from an age long past. When he enters the life of psychology professor, Sanura Williams, both of their lives are forever changed. They are immediately drawn to each other, but that relationship is threatened by predatory killers with great power who threaten the entire human race.

Of Fear and Faith by N. D. Jones is a tense paranormal thriller that makes The X Files seem like ‘Sesame Street.’ From the modern streets of the U.S. to places where people still believe in the old gods, the two protagonists fight to stay alive while they track a killer who has no mercy. This is a book that will chill you down to the bone, with characters who are easy to identify with even when they are acting bigger than life.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Plain Jane: Brunettes Beware’

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A killer who specializes in plain women, brunettes in fact, is stalking the city. Police detective Nicole Usher and her partner, Ruben Torres are on the case, but the key to finding the killer is an FBI profiler, recently released from a mental institution. Kent Harbinger’s technique is to put himself fully into the mind of the unsub (unknown subject), determine who his next victim will be, and then catch him in the act. Unfortunately, he’s too late and another woman dies, putting Kent on a downward emotional spiral and Nicole, his former lover, in hot water with her boss and other police colleagues. With 17 kills in two years, the killer seems unstoppable, but Nicole and Kent are determined to put an end to the deadly reign.

Plain Jane: Brunettes Beware by Cristyn West is a riveting story, really good noir fiction. The plotting is superb, and the action is nonstop; even when things seem to slow down, there’s that pulse of tension there, just under the surface.

A nice Saturday night mystery. I received this book as a gift.

I give West four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Fool Me Once’

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Maya, a former special operations pilot, home from the war, sees an impossible image on the nanny-cam in her daughter’s bedroom—her husband, brutally murdered two weeks earlier, is seen sitting on the sofa with her daughter. Concerned that she might be slipping into insanity, Maya has to deal with this in addition to the demons she brought home from the war.

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben is a difficult to categorize story. It’s part psychological thriller, as it takes us inside Maya’s tortured mind, and part mystery, as she struggles to find out what’s going on with her ‘dead’ husband, and who killed him.

The author does a sterling job of portraying a tormented woman, dealing with the stress of war and a situation that calls her sanity into question. The ending, played out over the last few chapters, comes at the reader like a commando raid, with unexpected twists and turns that will make you skip back to see if you missed some vital clue. Trust me when I say, you’ll conclude that there’s no way you saw it coming.

One thing’s for sure; this is a book you’ll love. I received it as a gift. Thank you to the kind soul who gave it to me.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Zero Patient Trilogy – Book Two’

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The Zero Patient Trilogy (Book Two) by Harmon Cooper picks up where Book One left off. Sterling tries unsuccessfully to save Bolt, but the goddess Halo appears, wanting him to go to Off Limits. Sterling’s sister, Beige, is skeptical, and serves as a kind of sounding board in an effort to make him question Halo.

This second book in a dystopian, far-future piece of sci-fi, once again plunges the reader into a world where only a small remnant of humanity survives, divided by religion and political beliefs and forever in conflict. One man finds himself caught between the contending parties, unsure of his mission or place in the world.

A great cyberpunk story that calls into question a lot of the beliefs people of the present cling to, and one that you’ll be sucked into with a vengeance. Like Book One, this one still leaves questions to be answered, and puzzles to be solved. Lots of action, mental and physical, to satisfy those who love a fast-paced story, but with enough profound thought to appeal to readers who like a more cerebral form of sci-fi.

I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Nightingale’

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Novels about heroism in war are usually about the men who fight; the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who face the enemy in battle. The women who suffer the horrors of war, who are often as heroic, if not more so, than the men, are often overlooked, or relegated to minor supporting roles.

Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale, though, tells the story of women and war in a way that is profound and unforgettable.

Viane Mauriac, and her 18-year-old sister, Isabella, are two French women who have to face the horror of World War 2, and the Nazi conquest of France, each in their own way. Head strong, and given to rash actions, Isabella joins the resistance and distinguishes herself as ‘The Nightingale,’ a patriot who rescues downed Allied pilots and spirits them into Spain right under the noses of the German army. Viane, in the meantime, must keep her daughter, Sophia safe from the German occupiers who rule with a degree of brutality that is beyond her comprehension. Even Beck, the Wehrmacht officer who choses her home as his garrison, and seems to show her consideration, is in the end a conqueror who will follow his orders, even when he doesn’t particularly agree with them.

Both women learn just how far they will go to survive, and what really has meaning for them as the war rages on. This is one war story that you’re not likely to forget after you read it. But, read it you should.

I received this book as a gift, and once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. At the end, my eyes were wet with sadness and with pride in the strength of the human spirit that enables humans to rise above selfishness and reach a level of selflessness.

I give this book five stars.

Review of ‘The Good Soldier’

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The Good Soldier book bundle by L.T. Ryan contains the first two books in this series about Jack Noble, a Marine who just wants to complete his hitch and get on with his life.

In Noble Beginnings, Jack and his partner, Bear, are assigned to provide security for CIA teams working against terrorists in Afghanistan. When Jack stops one of the agents from abusing a family, he and Bear find themselves in the crosshairs of an enigmatic group hell bent on their destruction. From the heat of Afghanistan to the murky underworld of Washington politics, Jack and Bear try to stay one step ahead of their potential assassins while getting to the bottom of a byzantine conspiracy that could change the course of American politics.

The second book in the series, A Deadly Distance, finds Jack out of the Marine Corps and working as a contract assassin himself. He and his new partner, Jack Skinner, think they’re stalking a suspect who is part of a ring smuggling guns to terrorists. What they find instead shocks them to the root of their souls. Instead of smuggling guns into the country, they’re smuggling children out; part of a scheme by a mad politician who is angling for higher office through a scheme that is as dastardly as it is shocking.

Ryan takes the reader on a ride through a murky world that is hard for the average person to imagine, but that could be true. Dialogue is crisp, gritty, and from the gut, and action scenes will get your juices flowing. Some readers will find the no-holds-barred style of these books disturbing, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a read that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Jack Noble is, as his name implies, a man of character; willing and able to do nasty things to nasty people, but always with the little people and their safety in mind. Action junkies will get their fill—that’s a promise.

I give both books five stars.

Review of ‘The Car Bomb’

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A woman and her children are killed by a car bomb that was probably meant for her husband. TV anchor Frank DeFauw is intrigued by the story, but he’s also caught up in an investigation of an allegedly corrupt judge who happens also to be his best friend. The deeper he digs into both stories, the more he finds that they are related, and he’s faced with a crucial decision—does he put friendship or journalist integrity first?

Car Bomb by T. V. LoCicero is book one in The Detroit Im Dying trilogy. Hard-hitting dialogue and evocative descriptions of the underside of the Motor City mark the author’s introduction to a classic noir mystery. LoCicero nails his characters and the setting with uncanny accuracy, pulling you under the gritty streets and into the sparkling salons. Questions of guilt and innocence reveal murky answers as you try to separate the bad from the good. You get inside the characters’ minds, suspect their motivations, and alternate between weeping when a character is in pain and cheering when another gets what’s coming.

This is a book you can’t put down until it’s done—but, it’s never really over. It just leaves you wanting more.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Lake House’

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Alice Edevane was 16 when her 11-month-old brother, Theo disappeared. Devastated, the Edevane family left their estate in Cornwall for London, never to return. Seventy years later, Alice, now a famous mystery novelist, is pulled back into the past when Detective Constable Sadie Sparrow, on forced leave from the force and spending the time with her grandfather in Cornwall, stumbles across the old Lake House and learns of the case.

The Lake House by Kate Morton swings back and forth in time, from the 1930s to the present as Sadie, wrestling with her own personal and professional demons, determines to find out what happened to little Theo. She peels back the dark past, the Edevane’s and her own, layer by layer in a profound exploration of the human spirit. Morton masterfully takes the reader inside her characters, revealing them bit by bit, while at the same time dangling morsels of information before the reader like carrots before a horse.

The ending, revealed slowly over the last few chapters, will cause you to gasp and slap your forehead. You’ll think you should have seen it coming, but like the deer that leaps from the side of the road on a dark night, you’ll still be surprised. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and completely worth the hours it takes to finish it..

I received this book as a gift. I give this book five stars.

Review of ‘An Innocent Client’

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Joe Dillard is a public defender. After years defending the guilty—and doing a pretty good job at it—he’s become jaded and wants to junk the law. But, before he does, he wants just one innocent client. When a drunken preacher is found dead in a hotel room and a young girl’s arrested for the crime, Joe thinks he’s found his ticket out of his dead-end job, finally, he thinks he’s found an innocent client.

An Innocent Clent by Scott Pratt is a gritty novel of the darker side of the legal profession, as Joe pulls out all the stops to get his client acquitted. In the process, he learns that nothing is ever what it seems, and innocence is a subjective concept. This one will keep you turning the pages until the unexpected conclusion.

I received this book as a gift. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Snow Burn’

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Burned out ex-NYPD detective Thomas Blume is still in London looking for the murderers of his family. He has finally, thanks to the efforts of his friend Amir, established himself as a PI. He gets a case involving finding a hacker who has some secrets that the government would like to recover. Blume searches; and the bodies start to pile up. He’s soon awash in people wanting to do him harm, and forced to team up with an unlikely ally. Even more disturbing, he starts to get bad vibes from Amir, his best friend.

Snow Burn continues P.T. Reade’s series about a man whose tragedy has dumped him into the sewer, and it’s not at all certain that he has the will to pull himself out. On-the-mark dialogue and descriptions so spot-on you can smell the stench from the gutter.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Girl With No Past’

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Leah Mills wants to forget about her past. For nearly 14 years, she’s lived the life of a fugitive; no friends and no anchor, until she meets Julian. Can her life change? She dares hope so, until on the 14th anniversary of a terrible incident from her past she receives a note that says, someone knows what happened, and that someone will not rest until Leah is destroyed.

The Girl with No Past by Kathryn Croft is a chilling thriller of redemption, stalking, and suspense, as Leah struggles to live with what happened while trying to find the identity of her mysterious stalker. The author keeps readers on the hook until the very end, both in terms of Leah’s stalker, and the truth about her past, making it all the more chilling when both are finally revealed. Reading this book, you’re likely to find yourself holding your breath as you read, and letting it out in an explosive rush when the facts are revealed.

I received this book as a gift. It’s a keeper. I give it five stars.

New Interview

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DV Berkom Books

I’m being interviewed on mystery author Carmen Amato’s stellar blog. Stop by and leave a comment–I’d love to see you there. And here’s a big plus, if you enjoy strong female characters, try her Emilia Cruz police procedural series set in Acapulco, Mexico–I have a feeling you’ll end up with a new favorite author!

http://carmenamato.net/mystery-author-dv-berkom/

Happy weekend!

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