Book Reviews

Review of ‘A Broken Reality’

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Four days after ten-year-old Danny Madsen goes missing, Jesse Carlton begins his own search for him. On an icy road late at night, he sees the boy, too late to avoid him. There’s a crash, and the body goes flying into the dark. The car crashes. When Jesse regains consciousness, he has no memory of the events, but there’s a witness who, instead of going to the police, begins to psychologically terrorize Jesse.

 

A Broken Reality by Rob Kaufman is a compelling psychological thriller, pitting a mentally tortured man against a sociopathic kidnapper, in a story that will suck you in like an undertow. The rollercoaster of emotions, false leads, and dramatic twists, you’ll find it hard to sympathize with anyone but the poor unfortunate Danny, a pawn in a game of mind twisting horror.

 

If you’re a fan of stories with a macabre twist, this is highly recommended reading. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give Kaufman five stars for a thoroughly gripping thriller.

Review of ‘The Forgotten Painting”

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A painting, lost during WWII when it was taken by a Nazi officer, comes up for auction. The son of its original owner, along with Jack Rogan, an Aussie investigator, played a large role in bringing this event about. The Forgotten Painting is a novella by Gabriel Farago that introduces Rogan and some of the author’s other works. A great way to get to know this iconic character, but also great stand-alone reading.

 

Highly recommended. I received a complimentary copy of the book. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Letters from my Attic

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In Letters from my Attic, best-selling Aussie author, Gabriel Farago shows readers his creative process through the memories of a grandfather he only knew from the memorabilia left in a trunk in the attic. In this charming little book, Farago details a journey that most writers can identify with. A quick read that will stir your creative juices if you’re a writer, and just entertain you if you’re just a reader.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book, and I give it unreservedly five stars.

Review of ‘A Life for a Life’

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After a messy divorce, DC writer Della Kincaid moved to Laurel Falls, NC and bought a failing general store. With the help of the former owner’s developmentally challenged son, Vester ‘Abit’ Bradshaw, she gets it up and running, and is beginning to slowly become an almost accepted part of the community. Then, while out walking one day, she finds the body of a young woman and her world starts to come apart at the seams. The sheriff calls it suicide, but she’s not so sure. When she and Abit start to snoop, things get even dicier.

 

A Life for a Life is the first of Lynda McDaniel’s Appalachian Mountain mysteries, and it’s a keeper. Told alternately from Della and Abit’s points of view, it walks and then runs through North Carolina’s mountains and small towns at a not-so-leisurely pace that will leave you breathless. The author has an eye and ear for her subject—locale and people—that will plunge you into the scene in a big way.

 

A series to watch for. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Down in the Belly of the Whale’

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Kelley Kay Bowles’ Down in the Belly of the Whale is the story of Harper Southwood, a young woman dealing with angst and abuse, love and loss, as she navigates the tricky waters of her teen years. Uncomfortable with herself, and her ‘gift’ of being able to sense when others are ill, Harper nonetheless retains a deep empathy and desire not just to ‘fix’ her own life, but to help others.

 

This is not your usual ‘coming of age’ novel, but a profound, at sometimes funny, look at some of the most serious issues of our time. The author tackles teen mental illness and child abuse head-on, but without preaching or burdening the reader with excessive detail. What you get instead, is the magnitude of these problems through the eyes of a teenager who must cope with them.

 

This is a book that will forever change your life. I received a complimentary copy.

 

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘The Scent of Distant Worlds’

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Cassie Clearwater, a Seminole, has forsaken the traditions of her tribe for science and has won the position of science officer aboard the interstellar exploration ship, Far Traveler. When they arrive at a dark, forbidding planet many light years from earth, which they name Obsidian because of its blackness, Cassie learns the wisdom of things her grandfather told her just before his death, things like ‘travelers to strange lands must keep an open mind,’ and ‘trust your heart when your brain is confused,’ when they encounter strange plants and animals which she suspects are intelligent.

 

The Scent of Distant Worlds by W. D. County is a deep science fiction novel that explores the complexities of encounters between entities whose systems of communications are incompatible, and how intuition and the intangible elements of trust and love can succeed where hard, objective fact fails.

 

A thoroughly riveting and interesting book, particularly when the author switches to the alien (non-human) point of view. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Infernal Curse’

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Half-goddess Alexandra Shaw is only days away from attaining her full goddess status, but things are not looking good. Demonic and vampire incidents are on the rise, and her nemesis is still after her—only, now, it’s her magic he wants. Can she and her sidekick, the fae Kagan Griffith prevail?

 

Read Infernal Curse by Antara Mann and find out. Book two of the Half-Goddess Chronicles picks up where book one left off, and keeps the magic flowing. Exciting from beginning to end. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘Ghost Country’

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In a post-apocalyptic United States, survivors, huddled on a beached ocean liner in a Mississippi port, must not only contend with gang attacks, hurricanes, famine, and an army of religious zealots, but with a tyrannical president who seems bent on finishing the destruction of the world. Loyalties, values, and courage are tested to the limit in Ghost Country by JK Franks. Fairly well paced with good character development. Not a bad read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Blue Bears’

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When a courier is caught transporting tactical nukes, called Blue Bears, through the Republic of Georgia, the CIA sends their resident agent, Randy Sawyer, to work with Georgian Special Forces to find and terminate the seller—and the buyer, a mad Saudi billionaire out to start World War III, and establish a terrorist caliphate. External enemies are not their only problem, they must deal with betrayal within their own ranks.

 

Blue Bears by Dan Andreescu and Don McQuinn is a spine-chilling international thriller that will keep you nervously flipping pages. Taut drama and suspense make this a must-read for thriller fans.

 

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

Review of ‘Shadow of the Jaguar’

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Dr. Martin Stokes and his daughter Nancy are in the Amazon basin in Peru, on the verge of finding a lost city mentioned in a conquistadores’ ancient manuscript. When an armed group of narco-traffickers kidnap Nancy and threaten to kill her unless he leads them to the site of the city, Stokes calls on his brother, Lou for aid in rescuing her.

Leine Basso is dispatched to find and rescue Nancy, but is forced to take her own daughter April along on the mission. April, who has worked with the anti-trafficking organization as a counselor, has no experience in the field, and Leine is worried that she will have to take care of her as well as concentrate on the job at hand.

In the jungle, Leine and April find things have gone from bad to worse, and don’t know who to trust. With greed, deceit, and perfidy at every turn, they are challenged just to stay alive.

Shadow of the Jaguar by D. V. Berkom is another offering in the stellar Leine Basso series, and they just keep getting better. If you like your heroines strong, focused, and uncompromising, you’ll love this one, and it it’s your introduction to this character, it’ll whet your appetite to go back to the beginning and read the preceding volumes.

This one will grab you by your attention span and pin you to your chair until, soaked with sweat and panting, you reach the end.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, couldn’t put it down until I finished it, and give it five stars. Heck, I’d give it more if I could, but five’s the limit.

Review of ‘Hometown Boys’

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Burned-out junkie Troy Ingram murders an elderly couple, and when he’s nabbed by the cops, confesses that he did it for revenge against their niece, Kelly Durrell, who spurned him twenty years earlier. When Kelly comes home to Morrison, Illinois from Denver, she finds his story less than believable, but everyone, including her own family, are all too willing to believe it. Troy’s lawyer thinks that someone else was behind the murder, and enlists Kelly’s help to find out just who that is, setting in motion a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the brains behind Troy’s murderous rampage.

 

Hometown Boys by Mary Maddox is a tightly-woven, intense thriller that explores the dark side of small-town America as we follow Kelly in her investigation of the crime. This book will keep you on the edge of your chair.

 

I received a complimentary copy of one of my more enjoyable reads so far this year. I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘Space City’

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At sixteen, Neil Ericson tries to join the Air Force, following in his grandfather’s footsteps. When that fails, he’s invited to join an academy on Space City, a space station beyond the moon. Soon after arrival, he befriends another student, and together, they face the daunting challenges designed to prepare them for—who knows what. In addition to challenges that can literally kill them, they also must contend with traitors in Space City who are selling out the human race.

 

Space City by Jared Austin is a fast-paced sci-fi story for young adults that will also appeal to older fans of the genre. The ending was a tad disappointing, but it was still a worthwhile read.

 

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

Review of ‘Accidents Happen’

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When Tabitha tries to help an injured boy, an advertising sign falls and kills her. Mort, a soul collector comes to get a soul, only, it’s the boy, not Tabitha, who was supposed to die. In the kerfuffle that follows Tabitha and Mort’s souls switch bodies, leading to cosmic confusion. Tabitha must now wait for Death to sort things out with the higher powers. She’s assigned to take over Mort’s soul collecting duties, guided by Cooper, another soul in limbo, until her fate is decided, and what follows is mirth and madness on an ethereal scale.

 

Accidents Happen by Sharon Karaa is a madcap, other-worldly adventure that follows Tabitha and Cooper through a series of misadventures that lead to some interesting conclusions. A thoroughly entertaining story, marred only by a few confusing character name switches (which I assume were errors not caught in editing) and the description of Tabitha as an orphan despite the prominent role her mother plays in the story.

 

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

Review of ‘Panacea’

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Dante Emerson’s daughter Ella suffers from incurable cancer, and he’ll do anything to save her – anything. When a mysterious man offers him a ‘cure’ in exchange for his help in raiding a secret government facility, he jumps at the chance. The cure, though, turns out to be worse than the deadly disease, he’s forced to watch his little girl turn into a monster. As if that wasn’t enough, a dangerous group of monsters known as the Scorned want Ella for themselves, and are willing to kill to get to her.

 

Panacea by Z. J. Frost is a chilling, action-packed story of demonic possession and government perfidy. A nice, icky little tale that horror fans will enjoy, even if the ending is a bit of a letdown. I received a complimentary copy of this book.  I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘The Deepening: First Contact’

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Kelly Brewer’s First Contact, the first book in The Deepening series, will grab you by . . . well, whatever part of your body you consider most sensitive, and squeeze every drop of laughter out of you possible. Kyle, a former Marine turned mega-rock star, is off for a galactic tour with his band and his soon-to-be wife, Mercy. An oddball combo, they face even more oddball situations as Kyle must decide what to do to save humanity. Do I have your attention?

 

I won’t go into the plot because that would spoil it for you. Just know that this is a wacky mixture of sci-fi, sociopolitical commentary, and odd doings on a galactic scale. If you like to be entertained while you’re inspired to think—that’s right, it is possible, folks—this is a book I would definitely recommend. Told in dramatic scenes like a fast action movie that has a lot of quick cuts from one dramatic scene to another.

 

Kept my attention from beginning to end.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘Murder Mansion’

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Donna is the new owner of the Painted Lady Inn, and she’s determined to get it rehabilitated and make it a success. She hits a snag, though, when a corpse is found in one of the upstairs rooms. What would have stopped others in their tracks only makes her more determined to succeed, so she sets out to solve the murder.

 

Murder Mansion by M. K. Scott is the first book in what promises to be an interesting and entertaining series. Well-developed characters and humor inserted as deftly as strawberries atop a chocolate cake will keep you reading.

 

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

Review of ‘Genecaust’

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When a plot to use genomes and microbiomes to murder specific individuals or groups using genetic markers is discovered, Meret Mather is tasked to use her genomic consulting company to ferret out those behind the plot and prevent its implementation. Special Agent Granger Hawking, point man in the field, tasked with finding the people, is captured, and Meret must help rescue him.

 

An interesting ‘what-if’ techno-thriller that will please fans of the genre. Replete with technical details, it comes across in places as a bit dry, then makes up for that dryness with some decent action scenes.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book, and I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Looking for Humboldt & Searching for German Footprints in New Mexico and Beyond’

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In popular media’s representation of the American West, and even in the history books, the contributions of many groups are glossed over, and in some cases, even omitted, and while many of these groups have been people of color, some have not. The Germans are but one example. In her book, Looking for Humboldt & Searching for German Footprints in New Mexico and Beyond, German-American author Erika Schelby fills in some of the blanks. An in-depth look at the contributions of Germans to American development, Schelby’s work goes far beyond the story of Alexander von Humboldt, the man who put New Mexico and the American southwest on the map—an actual map that he presented to Thomas Jefferson—and looks at the intricate and often conflicting relationships among the European powers before the twentieth century and how they impacted the development of the United States.

 

Seen through the eyes of someone who came to age in a different cultural and educational environment, Looking for Humboldt gives a much-needed fresh perspective on the country’s history that will enhance our understanding of past and current events.

 

This is not a dry recitation of events, people, and dates, but a lively look at a most fascinating, but little understood, facet of U.S. history. Highly recommended. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Tipping Point’

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When Garth Wainwright and his lawyer girlfriend go skiing in Aspen with Thomas Burke and his wife, Burke is killed in a freak accident, that Garth is convinced was not really an accident. As he delves into the mystery, Garth learns that things at CapVest, the high-end property sales and development company he works for, are not all as they seem. Underhanded corporate dealings are taking place, and when other people start dying, hostile corporate takeover takes on a whole new meaning.

 

The Tipping Point by Walter Danley is a down-and-dirty look at the shady side of the corporate world, where power corrupts everyone and everything, and the quest for power and money makes people do the most incredible things. The author writes about the corporate world with authority, and does a credible job of weaving in the non-corporate factors, although, I found his Israeli hitman a bit off the mark. But that’s just me. I’m sure most readers will find this a great read—I know that, for the most part, I did.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

 

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Paranormal Nonsense’

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Tempest Danger Michaels is a man who not only has an unusual name; he has a most unusual occupation. He’s a paranormal investigator. It’s a field he got into by mistake, when he decided to become a private investigator after getting out of the army, and the newspaper copy editor, looking at the name of his new agency, Blue Moon Investigations, placed it under paranormal investigations instead of private investigations. Even though he does not believe in the paranormal, when this turned out to be a lucrative sideline, he stuck to it.

Now, a third body with its throat slashed has been found, and the media is calling it the work for a Vampire Killer, a perfect job to enhance his reputation, if he can solve it.

In Paranormal Nonsense by Steve Higgs, Tempest takes on the vampire case pro bono, while concurrently looking into a room-wrecking poltergeist, solving a Big Foot sighting, and juggling a hectic love life—oh, and dealing with a runaway dog.

Funny, frightening, and full of surprises, this is the first book in a series that I predict will be a big hit with mystery fans.

I give Higgs four stars for this fine first effort.