Review of ‘They Came With the Snow’

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A strange blast in a small college town triggers a blizzard, which is followed by an infestation of ‘crabs,’ Curious at first, they soon turn deadly. College professor, Dominic Daniels, and a small group of survivors must decide whether to try to stick it out in their tenuous safe havens, or make a run for it and contend with the ‘monsters,’ who came with the snow.

They Came With the Snow by Christopher Coleman is a short horror story that stretches the limits of the imagination. Leaving much to the reader’s imagination, it is a shocking judgment of government overreach gone too far. A book that can, mercifully, be read in about half an hour, and one that you will long remember. No pun intended, but this one will chill you to your core.

I give it four stars.

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The holidays in my neighborhood

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DSCF5150  I live in a diverse neighborhood, and it’s never more apparent than during the winter holidays. Some of my neighbors don’t celebrate, some go for the minimalist look, and some go hog to the wall.  I don’t celebrate, but the wife does, and now that we have grandchildren, it’s kind of obligatory. The wife did a tree and streamers for a while, but with just the two of us, it got kinda boring, so she’s now restricting the decoration to a single, simple wreath on the door, and we go to our daughter’s house for the other stuff.

What I do like, though, is going around the neighborhood just before December 25 and snapping photos of some of the more notable displays. I share a couple of them with you.

 

 

Review of ‘Stranger’

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Through stubbornness and utter disregard for others, Gavin Roy turned an isolated valley in New Mexico into one of the richest mining and ranching areas in the Old West. He bent everyone, man or woman, to his will—or destroyed them—except for his rebellious son, Clay, and the beautiful woman from New York that he took to his bed after the death of Clay’s mother.

Stranger by acclaimed author Clifford Irving is an epic tale of the western frontier, and the men and women who made it great, told from the point of view of one dysfunctional family and their relationships—among themselves, with others around them, and with the land itself.

Irving, who served 2-1/2 years in prison for his faked autobiography of Howard Hughes, is in fine form in this tale of the Old West with a slightly different take on a beloved genre. There are no white hats versus black hats, and the hero doesn’t kiss his horse and ride off into the sunset. In the real west, people loved and hated, lived and died, and life was sometimes short and brutal, and true to his style, Irving pulls no punches.

Review of ‘Turn or Burn’

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Burned out and suffering from PTSD, former Green Beret and security contractor, Harper Knox has retired to his parents’ farm to grow grapes and get his life back together. His old comrade, Ted, lures him back into the fold with an offer of a security job, protecting a scientist involved in a controversial AI conference in Seattle. A routine protection job turns deadly when Ted’s killed, along with the two assailants, former prostitutes with a strange symbol burned into their bodies.

Harper and Ted’s cousin, Italian mercenary, Francesca Daly, seeking answers, stumble into a plot that threatens more loss of life, including their own, while dealing with the sparks that fly between them.

Turn or Burn by Boo Walker is a chilling thriller that looks at domestic terrorism and dangerous religious fundamentalism in our midst, a phenomenon that is every bit as deadly as international terrorism, but often not acknowledged. Compelling, and believable, characters and spine-tingling action on every page. You can’t put it down.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Swarm’

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John’s in a dead-end job, only staying because of his devotion to his wife and son. When a sick man enters his shop, life takes a distinct downward turn, not just for John, but for the whole world. What’s causing people to turn into flesh-eating zombies? John goes on the run with other survivors, but can he really do anything?
Swarm by Alex South is a zombie apocalypse novel set in London. Despite being a bit choppy, it’s an interesting take on the subgenre, with its focus on the individuals impacted by the ‘plague.’ Chillingly graphic descriptions of zombie attacks might be a bit much for the fainthearted, but zombie fans will eat it up—no pun intended.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. Because of the choppy prose, I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Murder in the Mind’

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Called to an isolated max-security hospital for the criminally insane, DI Skelgill catches the eye of a notorious female serial killer. When the killer, a nurse who was accused of killing scores of her patients, escapes, taking her psychologist with her, Skelgill and his crew undertake a plodding, systematic chase, culminating in a surprise ending that caught me completely unawares.

Murder in the Mind by Bruce Beckwith is a classic British murder mystery, written in an almost dry, nonchalant style—matching the principal protagonist’s personality—with plenty of red herrings and wry observations. It starts slow, as British mysteries are prone to do, but keeps moving relentlessly until the good guys prevail, and the bad ones are put where they belong.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Murder is the Only Option’

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When the manager of a homeless shelter is murdered, DCI Isaac Cook and his team are in search of Big Greg, a mysterious homeless man who doesn’t fit the normal pattern of a street person. When more people die, they learn that Big Greg has a secret and a mission, and the intelligence to pull it off right under their noses. To add to Cook’s misery, when a Member of Parliament becomes one of the killer’s victims, the pressure from above threatens to derail his investigation.

Murder is the Only Option by Phillip Strang is another offering in the DCI Cook series. Fascinating characters and convoluted plots, against the backdrop of a modest sized English city, will grab and hold your interest on every page.

Dat Isaac, he one sharp copper, mon! I received a free copy of this book, and I give it four stars.

Winter is coming…

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DV Berkom Books

Okay, well, it’s pretty much already here where I live.  I almost biffed it on the ice today on my walk. But the sky is clear and the sun is gorgeous, so I’ll take it! 

Today I wanted to let y’all know about some special deals just in time for the holidays:

cover for Serial Date

First up, Michael over at Free Kindle Books and Tips is running a contest for signed paperbacks (the first Leine Basso thriller, SERIAL DATE, is included in the lineup) and a new Kindle Paperwhite.  There are some amazing reads by fabulous authors, including M.A. Comley and Debra Burroughs.Click here to enter. (contest ends Friday, 8 Dec.)

Next, 50 fast-paced, page-turning thrillers and a brand new eReader are up for grabs over at Booksweeps. (And you get free ebooks just for entering, so a great deal all the way around). An e-copy of the latest Leine…

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New Book Review Schedule for 2018

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Throughout 2017, I have been doing a book review per day. I will end the year with a total of 365 reviews, which, when added to the reading I do just for pleasure, will mean that I will have read over 400 books this year. It’s been fun, and educational, but the press of other writing and non-writing projects have taken their toll. When I did my annual eye exam in late-November 2017, I was informed that, while my distance vision had improved, my lack of binocular vision, due to a childhood accident, meant that I’ve been reading with only one eye. Even with store-bought readers, that one eye was just reading enlarged text. I was given prescription reading glasses, which, to my surprise has made quite a difference. What it means, though, is that I need now to use reading glasses, not just for reading books, but when I’m on the computer as well.

Because of this, I have decided to set a new reading and reviewing schedule for 2018. Beginning in January 2018, I will only do one book review per week on this site. I still have to do a lot of reading as I research my own books, and I’d like my eyes to be able to reach the end of next year without any further degradation of visual acuity.

Thanks to all my readers who have reacted to my daily reviews, and here’s hoping you’ll keep reading the reduced schedule.

Review of ‘Fall of the Six’

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After harrowing adventures on a variety of dysfunctional worlds, and epic battles with Marcus’s MM army, the Preston Six find themselves separated; three trapped in an alternate Los Angeles overrun by zombies, while the remaining three valiantly struggle to find and rescue them. In the meantime, Harris has left them behind as he makes a last-ditch effort to bring Marcus down. While the three endure immense hardships on their journey to LA, Harris finds desolation at every stop.

Fall of the Six by Matt Ryan, the third book in the Preston Six series, continues the adventures of six children, part of a bizarre experiment, born on the same day, and bound together by secrets that they struggle in vain to learn. While the battles are the same as in the first two books, readers will learn of the changes in the six as they learn more about each other, and themselves.

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

Review of ‘Inside Moves’

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Best-selling novelist Gareth Wainwright is injured in a terrible auto crash. He wakes up at UCLA Medical Center with no memory of what happened, or who he is. Released from the hospital after a month, he begins the painful process of recovering his memory and his life. He’s learned his name, and that he has a wife—who he cannot remember—who was with him at the time of the crash, but who has now disappeared. Lacey Kinkaid Wainwright, Gareth’s new bride, is an attorney, who, after the crash, finds herself a prisoner of someone from her past, a past that she has kept hidden from Gareth.

Inside Moves by Walter Danley is a complex thriller that moves back and forth in time, and from place to place and character to character, as Lacey tries to survive her captor’s deadly intentions, while Gareth, his memory coming back in fits and starts, takes incredibly chances in his effort to find and rescue her.

This book has more threads than a knitting factory, with byzantine relationships and a complex set of plots that the author skillfully weaves together in a conclusion that, while not completely satisfying to the characters involved, will leave you with the feeling that you’ve been treated to a great story.

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

Review of ‘The Bushwhackers’

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During the American Civil War, Confederate irregulars, known as Bushwhackers, operated in all theaters. Striking sometimes behind Union lines, they destroyed supplies, railroad hubs, and other strategic targets in lightning raids that struck terror into their opponents. Some, on the other hand, were little more than roving snipers or assassins, killing Union-sympathizing civilians as well as soldiers, and sometimes using the cover of the war to settle grievances.

The Bushwhackers: Fighting for and Against the Confederate Guerrilla in the American Civil War is an introductory history of these controversial fighters, using primary sources on both sides to explain who they were and why they fought the way they did. Some of the accounts, such as the history of John McCorkle, a soldier who served as a scout for William Quantrill along the Missouri-Kansas border, or the final entry which gives a history of the Younger brothers, two among those who, after the war took to banditry, seem to romanticize these vicious fighters. On the other hand, accounts of some who were on the receiving end of the bushwhackers’ attentions, show that they could also be completely ruthless.

Wherever your sympathies lie on the issue, this is a valuable volume to read, for it lays bare the horrors of the war of brother against brother in the words of participants like no other history book in my memory has done. Think of them as romantic behind-the-lines heroes or bloodthirsty killers, but these men were an integral part of the Civil War, and in many ways, they not only changed the nature of modern warfare, but put an indelible stamp on the American character.

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

Review of ‘Not Without Risk’

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Martin Bennett works behind the scenes for a property development scheme in Liverpool. A former climber, he’s overweight and out of shape, and has had a stroke. After seeing a doctor, he runs into an old mate, John Hardin, at the hospital. When he sees Hardin murdered on an escalator, and when he later learns that Hardin was involved with a drug gang and that his body was hastily cremated, he feels compelled to investigate.

In the process of digging into his friend’s murder, Bennett becomes involved with corrupt politicians, crooked cops, and a list of possible suspects a mile long. He forms a partnership with an out-of-favor aide of the crooked mayor, and a roller coaster of intrigue and danger puts both their lives at risk. The clock is ticking as they dig deeper and deeper into the mire of corruption, leading to a stunning climax. Nothing they do is without risk, and he is faced constantly with the question; is it worth it?

Not Without Risk by Pete Trewin is a bumpy read—not, though, in a negative sense. Through actions, dialogue, and well-placed flashbacks, the reader is introduced to an eclectic cast of characters and an exquisitely crafted plot that pulls you ever deeper into Bennett’s oddball existence, piquing your curiosity with every sentence.

I received a free copy of this book; a definite five-star read.

Review of ‘Breakthrough’

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When an anomaly on the floor of the Caribbean causes a US nuclear sub to abort its mission, naval technical investigator John Clay is assigned to the case. He encounters a team of marine biologists, under the leadership of Alison Shaw, who, with the aid of a powerful computer are on the verge of a scientific breakthrough; they have developed the ability to conduct two-way communication with earth’s second most intelligent species, dolphins.

Events take a strange turn when the experimental sub they use to check the sea floor is lost, and during the efforts to locate it, they meet Palin, a strange individual who is apparently able to travel via some unknown portal, and who claims to be from another planet.

This encounter leads to the discovery of a secret on the ocean floor that could spell the end of humanity on two planets, and it’s left to John and Alison to prevent a cataclysm of epic proportions. Breakthrough by Michael C. Grumley is a futuristic novel that, though positing science that does not yet exist, reads as though it could have been ripped from today’s headlines. The futuristic technology, and alien contact, though thrilling, pale beside the story of bureaucratic bumbling and political maneuvering that is so similar to things that happen in our present day.

As a bonus, the author, after wrapping up the story neatly, sets the stage for the next in the series. This is a ‘can’t put it down’ read. I give Grumley five stars for this opening salvo in what appears to be a great series.

Review of ‘The Daemoniac’

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Young Harrison ‘Harry’ Fearing Pell, 19-year-old sister of famed detective, Myrtle Pell, is left alone in New York with her friend, medical student Thomas Weston, while her parents tour Europe and her sister is off to the west coast on a case. A couple show up at the home seeking help finding a missing friend, and Harry, not bothering to tell them that it’s her sister, not she, who is the detective, takes the case.

Soon, bodies start showing up, killed and staged in such a way as to suggest some kind of demonic possession, and causing the press to dub the killer, Mr. Hyde. But, Harry is convinced that the killer is a flesh and blood human with a real mental problem—and, she’s determined to solve the case.

Daemoniac by Kat Ross is a riveting mystery, in a style that’s a fusion of Conan Doyle and Poe, with a determined and skillful ‘Holmes-like’ main character, and the perfect foil in Thomas Weston. The reader is introduced to New York City in the late 1800s, from the grimy slums to the ritzy, often corrupt Fifth Avenue.

Once you start reading this one, you won’t be able to put it down.

Review of ‘Until Sweet Death Arrives’

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Nahum Patterson is an accomplished investigative journalist for a Tel Aviv newspaper, who puts his life on the line to do stories exposing official corruption. His stories resulted in one man having to flee the country, and put another in prison—both have sworn to get revenge. In the meantime, Nahum’s memory slowly begins to fade as Alzheimer’s disease takes hold of his mind.

Until Sweet Death Arrives by Amnon Binyamini is a crime thriller, but mainly it’s a profoundly disturbing tale of the havoc diseases like Alzheimer’s wreaks on individuals and families. It follows the deterioration of Nahum from the onset of the disease, when he begins to find himself in places with no knowledge of how or why he came to be there, through the final stages, when he has to be confined for his own safety, and has no real awareness of his surroundings.

The author does an amazing job of portraying this condition, not to gain sympathy, but to generate understanding of the effect it has on the sufferers and everyone around them.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘The Federalist Papers’

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Every American politician, judge, government official and practicing lawyer should be required to read The Federalist Papers. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for every American to read these 85 essays, written by Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in 1787-88 to persuade the American public to ratify the Constitution to replace the weak and ineffective Articles of Confederation. Addressing various aspects of governance, and how they would be dealt with under the new Constitution, even more than two centuries later, they contain a lot of wisdom and food for thought–particularly in our current political climate.

It’s been many years since I read these, so when I received a free copy of this Amazon Classic, it seemed like a good opportunity to refresh my knowledge of the subject. Though written in the infancy of this country, many of the issues they address are appropriate today.

I give this outstanding course in U.S. constitutional history five stars.

Review of ‘Call of the Six’

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Thanks to the machinations of Marcus and his MM army, the Preston Six find themselves separated, Poly alone in a life raft after their plane is shot down on an alternate world, and heading for an island that might not even exist; and Joey and Samantha isolated in a scene generator, where Marcus is slowly sucking the life out of Joey. Harris, the Ghost, calls on the six to tap into their strengths to help him bring Marcus down, but in order to so, they have to survive zombie assaults and take on a high-tech army—and, in the process, get back together again.

Call of the Six by Matt Ryan is book two in the Preston Six series, and while it lacks the smoother copy editing of book one, makes up for it with spine-tingling action and profound interpersonal conflict.

This one ends on something of a cliff hanger, in some ways, similar to book one, which sets a reader up nicely for the next in the series. While I’m not ordinarily a fan of cliff hangers, I give the author a pass on this one.

I received a free copy of this book. I give this one three and a half stars, mostly because of the number of grammatical and typographical glitches.

Review of ‘Caribbean Shuffle’

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Retired police detective, turned private eye, Pat Ruger joins his ex-partner, Jimmy Stewart, and his wife, on a Caribbean cruise. A widower with an FBI-agent girlfriend who has moved from Denver to NYC to take a plum job, Pat finds himself being pursued by multiple women, and unsure how to deal with it. When he’s seduced and robbed by a beautiful young woman on the cruise ship almost before it leaves port, and she later turns up murdered, his life takes a dramatic, and decidedly odd, turn. Pat and Jimmy are asked by the ship’s captain to try and identify the murderer before they reach their next port of call. What should be a relatively simple investigation, however, becomes immensely more complicated by a pirate raid and a tense naval standoff, with Pat and Jimmy sitting squarely on ground zero.

Caribbean Shuffle by Jack Huber is the second book in the Pat Ruger mystery series. While this one contains a lot more action than the first, in my humble opinion, the author overloaded it, sacrificing some character development in the process. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a thoroughly entertaining read, and there was some character development, but the plot complications could’ve stopped when the naval standoff was settled. The little secret agent shuffle near the end, with the wild ride from Colombia to Venezuela, while interesting, could have probably been left out.

I’m still a fan of the series, though, and look forward to Pat and Jimmy’s future adventures.

I give Huber three and a half stars for this one.

Review of ‘The Bootlegger’s Legacy’

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When an old-time bootlegger dies, he leaves his son, Mike, a cryptic letter and a key, hinting at a secret stash of millions of dollars that he hopes his son is smart enough to find. With his best friend, Joe, he sets off on an adventure that covers three states and fifty years of a family history that sets the two friends’ minds reeling.

The Bootlegger’s Legacy by Ted Clifton is a rollicking and heartwarming tale of love, loss, and redemption that traces the lives of several people over a fifty-year period, as they come to terms with their past and present, and forge new futures. Once you start reading this book, you’ll be pulled into their lives as if they’re old friends with whom you’ve lost contact, and are now discovering things about them that you never knew.

The author does an amazing job of introducing characters, and then leaving you wondering what will happen to them next, and then, in the end, tying up every loose end in a wonderful package that will leave you completely satisfied.

A solid five-star read!