Book Reviews

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.

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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.

Review of ‘The Bench’

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Jenny is the office mouse, closeted in her cubicle in a large publishing house, she lives in a world only of her literary aspirations. Then, she stumbles across a love poem by an unknown author that changes her world—not necessarily for the better.

The Bench by Kevin Farran is an enigmatic romantic novel that explores the delusions that can engulf a life, fanning flames of hope and desire in ways beyond imagining. The story follows a measured journey through one woman’s tortured mind in a way that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end.

I received a free copy of this book. I give the author four stars for a good effort to entertain and enlighten.

Review of ‘The Deepest Grave’

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DS Fiona Griffiths hasn’t had a murder case in over a year. Then, a local archaeologist is killed, beheaded, and the head is staged so that it’s staring at a fragment of Latin text. Fiona finds herself involved in a case that, in order to solve, she has to delve in battles that are centuries old, and grapple with the legend of Arthur and Camelot.

The Deepest Grave by Harry Bingham is an entertaining British crime thriller with elements of the supernatural and ancient history entwined most effectively with a contemporary crime story. Bingham presents us with a strong, yet flawed, female character who will attract and hold your interest page after page.

I give Bingham five stars for this one.

Review of ‘Open Primary: Ameritocracy’

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Disillusioned with the state of the American political process, and somewhat traumatized by her estranged father’s failed attempt to run for president, Mia Rhodes decides to upend the system. She creates a presidential primary process that is truly open—a social media engine that allows any qualified person to declare candidacy, and then lets the People decide. Her project founders until she attracts the attention of eccentric tech billionaire, Peter Colton, who bankrolls her. Once her system is up and running, though, Mia discovers that in order to change the American political quagmire, she had to undergo significant personal change.

Open Primary: Ameritocracy by A. C. Fuller takes the political system that causes all of us so much anguish head on. Humor and pathos, hope and despair, exist side by side as Mia learns that changing a dirty system often requires getting down into the mud.

If you’re still reeling from the outcome of the 2016 joke that was the presidential election, you’ll find a lot in this book to relate to, cheer for, and gnash your teeth over. This is the first book in a series that will change your view of politics forever.

This book is the Primary Colors of the 2016 election. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Stop the Slip’

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Interesting facts: falls are the number one cause of ER visits in the US, and you’re three times more likely to die from a fall injury than a firearm injury. While this doesn’t mean that we should stop our efforts to prevent firearm injuries, it does call for more attention to preventing needless injury and death from falls—mostly in the home.

Stop the Slip: Reducing Slips, Trips and Falls by Thom Disch addresses this pervasive, but little discussed, problem, with statistics and preventive measures that anyone can understand and apply. Everything from addressing clutter around your home to more intelligent selection of footwear is covered in this chilling book. Fall-proof yourself today with this handy guide.

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

Review of ‘Death and the Lucky Man’

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Alan Winters came from a not-so-lucky family, with a neglectful mother, and brothers in prison. His luck seemed to turn, though, when he won 68 million pounds in the lottery—but, not for long. Alan ended up naked, with his throat slashed, on the Altar Stone at Stonehenge. DCI Keith Tremayne and his partner, DS Clare Yarwood investigate the strange death, each having also to face pasts that in some ways were best forgotten.

Death and the Lucky Man by Phillip Strang is another fascinating adventure with Tremayne and Yarwood and the denizens of their working-class English environment. The author takes you effectively behind the curtain in a story that will delight.

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

Review of ‘Murder in the Painted Lady’

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Peyton Brooks and her partner, Marco D’Angelo, are two of SFPD’s top detectives. No case is too hard for them to solve, until a real estate agent is murdered in a high-end SF property, a painted lady, and there’s no motive, no useful evidence, and no real suspects. Peyton and Marco are working against the clock, trying to catch the killer before he or she strikes again.

Murder in the Painted Lady by M.L. Hamilton is a real nail-biter. Down-to-earth characters in the well-limned setting of San Francisco—from Knob Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf—this is one you won’t be able to put down. A novella, this is a prequel to the Peyton Brooks mystery series, introducing a quirky, but strong female character.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Track Down Iraq’

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When a former comrade is captured and put on display by an ISIS terrorist group, Brad Jacobs and his old marine vets set out to rescue him. Working against the odds, and against US Government inaction and, in some cases, perfidy, they save the day.

Track Down Iraq by Scott Conrad is pure escapist reading, primarily for action junkies who like the good guys to be super good—and, guys is the operative word here, since the female characters seem to be primarily arm candy—and the bad guys to be totally irredeemable. A lot of snide side comments about anything that’s not in uniform, and a bit of uninformed speculation about the civilian agencies of government.

If you like your action uncomplicated, it’s probably a read you’d enjoy. I found occasional snippets of entertainment in it. I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Mark of the Loon’

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When Madison Boone buys an old cottage in Sonoma that belonged to a reclusive ornithologist and his wife, her plans are just to fix it up and flip it for profit. The property has a secret, though, and some people are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to uncover it—unfortunately, they have to get Madison off the property first. With the help of her friend, lawyer, Gen Delacourt, Madison begins to peel away the layers of the mystery of the Blackburne family’s estate, and what she learns could be deadly.

Mark of the Loon by Molly Greene is a delightful cozy mystery with a wacky, but loveable cast of characters—a group of witty, independent women who operate according to their own rules, and a colorful locale that is lovingly described, without becoming boring. I loved the pacing; slow and measured until you feel comfortable, and then a burst of frenetic action to get your blood pounding, and just enough budding romance to make it all interesting.

A great start to what I predict will be an even greater series. Don’t miss it. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Honor Bound’

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Arthur, the Wildcat Wizard, is back and as brash as ever. With his life approaching something like normalcy, and in new digs, he’s offered a job he can’t refuse from the vampire First. Honor bound to complete his new mission, but as usual, things go from bad to worse, and the bodies quickly start piling up.

Honor Bound by Al K. Line is the fifth book in the Wildcat Wizard series, and Arthur and his hat are mired in the usual controversy, with enough action to get your blood pumping and the heat flowing on a cold winter’s day.

Lots of supernatural hanky-panky to jazz up your reading. I received a free copy of this one, and it doesn’t disappoint.

I give it five stars – what else!

Review of ‘Bloody Mary’

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Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Daniels is a tough Chicago cop, she has to be, as the highest ranking female detective on the force. When body parts start showing up in the morgue, she and her partner get on the chase of a deadly serial killer, who, for some reason, has Jack in his sights. The case is complicated by Jack’s personal life—in shambles, and a homicidal cat.

Bloody Mary, book 2 in the Jack Daniel’s series by J. A. Konrath, is a fascinating read. A strong, but nearly fatally flawed, female lead, tons of clues, most leading down blind alleys, and spot-on dialogue, will keep you flipping pages, your head spinning, and will completely surprise you when you learn the identity of the killer. I particular like the way the author takes you on a roller coaster ride when the killer is caught, gets off on a technicality, about three-quarters through the book, and then takes our hero on another bloody journey for the rest of it.

Trust me; you won’t be able to put this one down. I give it a resounding five stars.

Review of ‘Abduction: The Minivan Murders’

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Abduction: The Minivan Murders by R.J. Parker is the true story of James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud, a couple of meth-heads who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a number of young women from Sacramento, California to Reno, Nevada, even killing one and dumping her body.

A chilling story of serial rapists and murderers, the book fails, however, to live up to the hype or the cover. There is too much repetition, going over points repeatedly that could well be addressed once and done—and a lot of it is devoted to the killing spree of two other serial rapist-killers, who apparently were the motivation for Daveggio and Michaud.

An interesting book, that with less repetition, and without the hype—for example, the two were only convicted of one murder, and while they might, if not caught, have killed others, there is no evidence that they killed more than the one for whose death they were convicted.

I give this one three stars. Interesting subject, just not as well executed as I would expect from this author.

Review of ‘P.I. Penguin and the Case of the Christmas Lights’

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P.I. Penguin takes a break from decorating his house for Christmas to find out how to improve his decorations. During his journey, he discovers that the secret to a truly decorative holiday is the sharing.

P.I. Penguin and the Case of the Christmas Lights by Bec J. Smith is a delightful children’s reader, with illustrations by Indonesian artist, Adit Galih. Though in Australian English, it nonetheless is still a great way to introduce young American readers to the beauty of language.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘Fly Like an Eagle’

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In Philadelphia, in 1824, Samantha Ronaldson’s father wants her to marry his older business partner in order to keep his industrial secrets in the family. Samantha, on the other hand, only wants the freedom to explore science, and she allies herself with the partner’s half-Indian son, Eagle, and accompanies him on a journey through the Flow, back and forth through time on an amazing journey of discovery.

Fly Like an Eagle by S.B.K. Burns is a difficult book to categorize. A steam punk, sci-fi novel, it has elements of the paranormal, as well as steamy romance, that offers a bit of everything for lovers of a variety of genres. A tantalizing romp that challenges historical and scientific truths, it explores the boundaries between science and spirituality in a thoroughly entertaining story that will grab and hold your attention from the first page to the last.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Declaration of Liberty’

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When police detective Brad Hamilton finds an old letter at a murder scene, he has to call on history professor, Connie Cobb, and her sister, Rebecca, for help. The letter, which refers to the famous Mecklenburg Declaration, a declaration of independence from England by the government of Mecklenburg, NC, supposedly dated two years before the Declaration of Independence, suspicion falls on historical document validators in the area who might have wanted to take it from the victim.

Declaration of Liberty by Lisa Walker is the second novel in the Cobb Sisters mystery series, that follows Connie, Rebecca, and Brad as they undertake two lines of investigation; one to try to determine the identity of the killer, and the other to determine the authenticity of the letter. While it contains interesting historical information, including historical flashbacks relating to the individuals mentioned in the letter, and police procedure as Brad and his fellow officers trace the victim’s movements in the days before his murder, the pacing of the narrative is rather monotonous, and the flashbacks misleading—and, called into question by the final test of the document’s authenticity.

Although an interesting story with an interesting cast of characters, and not too bad, it could have been much better without the flashbacks.

I give the author three stars for the promise shown.