Thursday, April 17, 2014

Waking Up Dead / Margo Bond Collins


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Mystery / Paranormal

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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Author:

The author lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, several spoiled cats, and a ridiculous turtle. She teaches college English online. She loves paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters.
Description:

After she is raped and brutally murdered in Dallas, TX, Callie Taylor ‘wakes up’ as a ghost in small-town Alabama. Seeking solace against the loneliness of the ghostly life, she falls into the habit of dropping in on a young married couple and watching TV with them (although they can’t see her). When a stranger breaks in and murders the young wife, Callie gains a new purpose—to bring the killer to justice.

Appraisal:

This was a fun and easy read. A book you can pick up and put down, and then slot right back into the plot again when you re-open. The ghost world and Callie’s abilities and limitations were well handled--basically she operated very like Patrick Swayze in Ghost--and Callie was great to be around, witty, and with a dry sense of humor.

When Callie finds an African American bank teller and her grandmother who can see and hear her, she persuades them to help in her quest. They were also fun characters. The grandma—Maw-Maw—was especially feisty.

I think lovers of mystery books will enjoy this slightly different take on the genre--having a ghost act as ‘detective’ added an interesting twist.

Format/Typo Issues:

I received an advanced copy, so can’t pass judgment here.


Rating: **** Four stars

#Free for your #Kindle, 4/17/2014

The author of each of these books has indicated their intent to schedule these books for a free day for the Kindle versions today on Amazon. Sometimes plans change or mistakes happen, so be sure to verify the price before hitting that "buy me" button.


My Monster Burrufu by Alberto Corral




A Chance for Charity by S.L. Baum



Author's interested in having their free book featured either here on a Thursday or a sister site on a Monday, visit this page for details.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Diamond Duplicity (Jewels of Desire) /Erica Lucke Dean with Elise Delacroix


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre:  Erotic Romance/ Mystery

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
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Author:

Erica Lucke Dean:

“After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains where she lives in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse with her workaholic husband, her 180lb lap dog, and at least one ghost.”

To learn more about her, visit her website, blog, or Facebook page.

Elise Delacroix:

“Elise Delacroix married her high school sweetheart and moved to a remote hideaway far enough from civilization that she was forced to create her own entertainment. When playing charades got old, she came up with a plan to write erotic romance in order to keep life exciting. She may spend most of her days lounging in a pair of red flannel pajamas, but her characters wouldn’t be caught dead in anything less than satin and lace.

While Elise also writes in other genres using a pen name, it’s her collaborations with Erica Lucke Dean where she lets her naughty side come out to play. And oh, what a naughty side she has.”

Description:

“Lucy Matthews can’t believe her crazy luck. While she’s on a date with Mr. Wrong, her evening tilts from merely unfortunate to downright surreal when his attempt to sneak them into a club lands them in the middle of a diamond heist.

When gorgeous Max Callaghan discovers a hot and disheveled Lucy clutching his bag of diamonds at the crime scene, he brands her with a fiery kiss. His gang wants her dead, so Max rescues her by claiming her as his girlfriend. Lucy soon realizes with sudden, pulse-pounding clarity that she needs Max for another reason entirely, but their passionate ruse might not survive the intense pressure of a high-stakes mob war.”

Appraisal:

Lucy Matthews is not quite twenty-one, a bit na├»ve, and totally swept off her feet by Max Callaghan. She is not normally an adventurous or outgoing person but once she looks into Max's gorgeous green eyes she loses all of her inhibitions. It was fun to go along with her on her adventure, even though we are not sure what side of the law Max and his crew are on. He seems genuine and forthright, he says all the right things but is he too good to be true? 

The supportive cast's dialogue is entertaining, I love Rabbit, Keagan, and even Mario.  The characters are well developed and I hope to see more of them in future stories. I also want to know more about Uncle Mick and Big Al, we didn't get the full story between these two characters! The plot is fast moving, all happening in a single event filled night. The biggest problem is I want more!

If you are looking for fun, fast, sexy read, that actually has a plot this may be a book you would enjoy.

FYI:

Adult language, situations, and explicit sex scenes.


Rating: **** Four stars

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Choice Cuts / Joe Clifford


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Crime / Noir / Hard Boiled / Short Story Collection

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Joe Clifford is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books and managing editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive. He is the author of three books.

You can learn more about the author at his website.

Description:

The author’s debut collection of noir and crime stories previously published in a variety of magazines, brought together for the first time.

Appraisal:

I’ve previously reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed two of Joe Clifford’s novels – Junkie Love and Wake The Undertaker so I was interested to see how he dealt with the shorter form. In summary – very well. This is an enjoyable, if at times challenging, read. There’s a real spread of subjects, from drugs and their users to combat stress to prison escapes. Some have nods to Clifford’s past experiences as a user (read Junkie Love for more information). However, all have an underlying element of empathy for the characters. This is not sensationalized story telling.

Most are at the high end of the quality spectrum, one or two not so. To be fair, those that fell into the latter segment were the shortest of shorts, where there was insufficient room to develop a narrative, but that’s just down to my preferences.

There are too many stories to go through in detail so I’ll pick out some of the highlights.

Another Man’s Treasure is written in the first person, a perspective that Clifford seems most comfortable writing within. The main character and a friend called Geiger trawl flea markets with the aim of making a few dollars from junk. Geiger thinks he’s got the perfect scam to rip off one of the stall holders, but the tables are turned in rather gruesome fashion.

Meat follows several Russian prisoners who escape the most brutal of confinements and battle their way across a frozen landscape, miles from anywhere. In order to survive they need a source of food…

In Red Pistachios a once successful writer is struggling with life, literally. A student of his, one to whom the main character owes a debt in effect, returns after several years away, but to disastrous consequences.

Joe Clifford has many enviable strong points as a writer, but the one that shone through yet again was his descriptive narrative. Simply read and enjoy this collection of high quality work.

FYI:

Scenes of drug taking.

Format/Typo Issues:

Nothing of note.


Rating: **** Four Stars

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lucky Girl: How I Survived the Sex Industry / Violet Ivy


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Memoir

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
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Author:

Violet Ivy (I’m guessing a pen name or at least working name) is “an international call girl.” This book chronicles her years working in the sex industry.  She also has a book of interviews discussing sexuality with some of the people she’s crossed paths with over the years called Sex and Sexuality: The Interviews – Part One.

Description:

“The intimate autobiography of an international call girl. Scary, funny and bizarre stories recorded for your amusement, edification or simply for interesting dinner conversation.

The sex industry is clouded in mystery. It has to be to some extent or it wouldn’t survive. But in this age of internet porn, buying pubic hair trimmings online and wife swapping parties it’s about time the veils of mystery were taken down.”

Appraisal:

My feelings about Lucky Girl are ambiguous. In it Violet Ivy chronicles how she went from a farm girl in rural Australia to working as a prostitute and call girl both on her own and in brothels in at least three countries. She also attempts to put a positive spin on the industry with thoughts on why it is needed as well as arguing against some of the stereotypes we might have about sex workers. Taken at face value, it was both entertaining and thought provoking.

However, it suffered from an overabundance of typos and other errors not caught in the proofing and copyediting process. I also found that as I was getting close to the end I was questioning the credibility or truthfulness of Ivy’s story. There were two main reasons I was able to identify as contributors to that feeling. One was a story about a man named Bruce who Ivy got involved with on a personal level which seemed to contradict earlier stories where she talked about her “one real love” and also the difficulty in having a regular relationship while working in her industry. To be fair, she might not have contradicted herself and I read more into one of the stories than was intended. However, my second concern was when she argued against the media stereotype of a sex worker being addicted to hard drugs and guilty of theft and other mayhem, saying it was done with the “aim to sensationalize” and claimed that this “archetypical hooker is the exception rather than the rule.” Possibly it is the exception, yet there were multiple stories earlier in the book that involved her peers stealing from her or someone else and the point was made that this wasn’t an uncommon problem. At least in my experience working in other industries, theft of personal items by my coworkers hasn’t been an issue I’ve had to worry about. Maybe the stereotype isn’t the rule, but it didn’t seem to be so uncommon as to paint it as rare either.

If you’re willing to wade past a few typos, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

FYI:

Adult subjects and language.

Format/Typo Issues:

A moderate number of typos and other proofing and copyediting misses.


Rating: *** Three Stars

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Ideal Household Appliance / Laura L Sullivan


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Science Fiction / Short Story

Approximate word count: 5-6,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Under the pen name Sullivan Lee as well as  her own name, Laura L Sullivan is the author of several traditionally published books in multiple genres. The former social worker, newspaper editor, and deputy sheriff is now also self publishing her short stories.

Description:

“In The Ideal Household Appliance, a socially averse entomologist with an interest in robotics has created the perfect cleaning gadget – artificial roaches that hide in the daytime but scurry around at night cleaning up debris. They have all the benefits of insects, without the feces and disease. But when he develops an unhealthy obsession with his neighbor, and her violent ex-husband returns, the scientist discovers that his new invention still has a few bugs.”

Appraisal:

The nature of a short story is that relative to longer works the author is limited in how much can be said. There can’t be as much character development (often leaving the reader wanting to know a character better) and the story has to have severe constraints on complexity. I enjoy them, but am often left wanting more.

What struck me about The Ideal Household Appliance is that, for me, character development was exactly what was needed to understand the story. No more and no less. The reader gets a good handle on Watson, the protagonist, learns enough about Rosalind, a major secondary character, to fit the story, and just enough about Rex, Rosalind’s son, and Rosalind’s ex-husband for them to understand their place in the story. And it was a good story, with a hero, some conflict with a satisfying resolution, and an ending that didn’t leave me thinking I’d been left in the dark about something important.

Format/Typo Issues:

No Significant issues


Rating: ***** Five stars

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Self-Pay Patient / Sean Parnell


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-Fiction/Healthcare Policy

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

The owner of a public policy consulting firm that specializes in health care policy, Sean Parnell has written numerous articles on healthcare policy and formerly was on the staff of Congressman Greg Ganske.

For more, visit Parnell’s website.

Description:

“The Self-Pay Patient reveals secrets to taking control of both your healthcare and your health costs, explaining how to find affordable care outside of conventional insurance, how to escape bureaucratic medicine, and how to opt-out of Obamacare.”

Appraisal:

The subtitle of this book, Affordable Healthcare Choices in the Age of Obamacare, is in my opinion much more descriptive of the contents. Although focused on those without health insurance who have to pay for any healthcare services out of their own pocket (the “self-pay patient”), there are a lot of ideas that can be applied to minimize healthcare costs for those who do have health insurance. While primarily aimed at the individual, there is also a section discussing options available to a business that would be valuable to business owners and of some interest to employees.

By way of disclaimer and to expose any potential bias I might have on this subject, although the author largely keeps politics out of the discussion, ferreting out which direction he leans (left or right) is easy to figure out and happens to be the opposite from my own leanings. I’m also employed in the health insurance arena, although in a segment I believe the author would find less objectionable than most of the industry.

Having said that, I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover I had significant and far reaching issues with much of this book. It turns out I don’t. The author has issues with the current healthcare system (what he calls bureaucratic medicine) and I have different issues.  What I see as the ideal long-term solutions are different than the author’s, too. However, his expertise on where things stand right now and how people can work within the current framework to find what works best for them is excellent. I found The Self-Pay Patient to be almost entirely free of ideology unless the author’s dislike for bureaucratic medicine falls in that category. His approach of having each individual look at their specific situation to determine what works best for them with examples is well done, laying out the considerations and his logic clearly. (Some of his examples even advise that working largely within the current system is the best choice)

I was also impressed that the author was upfront about the major problem of opting out of the current system (not having access to negotiated network discounts) and provides some strategies to deal with this. While I spotted a few things I could nitpick (for example, his explanation of stop-loss insurance for employers with self-funded plans was described as something new - it really isn’t, although possibly I misunderstood the point he was making - and his explanation of how it worked was incomplete), for the purposes here the few things like this I saw were minor and didn’t invalidate whatever point he was making at the time.

There were only two points where I question a claim or explanation that I felt was significant. The first is the contention that health insurance premiums “are likely to be very high compared to insurance available before Obamacare’s exchanges opened.” Assuming he’s talking about comparing apples to apples (insurance plans that are roughly equivalent in coverage), I question whether that is a reasonable assessment. It is certainly possible and will vary widely from state to state. I’d caution (as I think the author would as well) to explore what plans are available in your area and the actual costs when evaluating your options rather than assuming that option won’t work for you.

My second objection is to advising people who choose to go outside of the system to consider plans available through the healthcare exchanges as a safety net. In other words, opt-out unless you’re diagnosed with a serious problem and, if that happens, take advantage of the fact that you can’t be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions. I see that idea, at best, to be morally ambiguous.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.


Rating: **** Four stars