Monday, July 28, 2014

A Man Alone / David Siddall

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Crime / Thriller / Noir

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

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


David Siddall writes his crime in his home city of Liverpool. He had a number of stories published in magazines before writing A Man Alone, his debut work.


John Doyle is a quiet man, that is until local crime boss, Barry Wood, threatens his step-daughter, April. Doyle has a past, one he’d tried to bury but is forced to bring back to the surface to protect his family.


This is an excellent novella full of excellent characters and a situation that ramps up the pressure on the protagonist, John Doyle. The initial premise, man protects family from local thug, isn’t unusual, but there’s something intangible about Doyle that keeps the pages turning. It’s dark, brooding and violent.

Doyle the underdog up against a man who’s used to calling the shots and is caught off guard when someone fights back. For Doyle has a past, one that’s gradually revealed piece by piece as he turns up the heat on Wood. He moved to Liverpool for some peace, hoping he’d left his past behind, but he can’t help but draw on his experience.

There’s also several neat little twists that add to the story, I can’t say what for fear of ruining the surprise. If you like your crime hard boiled, I strongly recommend this novella. I’ve only one complaint – it’s too short (although the story is really well paced and balanced) in that I’d like to see more of Doyle. I really hope the author brings him back in a future story.


Nothing of note.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Recently at The IndieView

The most recent interviews at The IndieView starting with a refresher on the different kinds of interviews.

The IndieView

This is an interview with a standard set of open ended questions. While they focus on a specific book, they also delve into the author's history as a writer and the path they took in becoming an indie author.

The BookView

This is a shorter interview format for authors who have already done an IndieView which focuses just on their most recent book.

Reviewer IndieView

These are interviews with reviewers who have their own review blog that delve into their approach to reviewing. A great way to find other book blogs you might like to follow. (For authors, there is also an extensive database of indie friendly review sites you might like to check out.)

Allirea's Realm

By invitation only, these are quirky, often irreverent interviews done by longtime Books and Pals follower, Allirea.

(Authors and reviewers interested in doing an IndieView should visit this page for details.)

IndieView with Julie Frayn, author of Mazie Baby

I’d place bets that every character in every book is borrowed from real people, if not in whole, at least a few specific traits or actions.

IndieView with Ashley Quigley, author of Breeders

Writing the manuscript is not the hard part. Getting it out there and getting readers and HONEST reviews is the hard part. It takes work and dedication. 

Indieview with reviewer Steve Liddick

Readers read for many reasons: to be entertained, enlightened, emotionally tweaked. There are as many reasons for reading as there are readers.

IndieView with Kimberly G. Giarratano, author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards

I find it incredibly romantic for a girl and a ghost to fall in love because it can’t end happily…or can it?

IndieView with Manheim Wagner, author of Korea: How You Feel

The main character Michael is a composite of myself (during my first year in Korea) and other people I met. He’s a conflicted narrator who does things he knows he shouldn’t but can’t stop himself from doing them. 

IndieView with Annette Ranald, author of Under an Evil Star

My goal is to use fiction to get people of all ages and intellects hooked on history.  If you like my story and it makes you want to learn more, I’ve done my job

IndieView with M.H.J. Rice, author of Mental Dessert

I really enjoy the writing of Stephen King and how he gets readers emotionally involved in the story.

BookView with Michael Moreau, author of No Time Like the Future

I think the only prerequisite to enjoying my Rocket Riders books is going to be if you like something that you can pick up and read fairly quickly. If you’re looking for Tolkien-length epics then it’s probably a poor choice for you...

It was such a surreal moment.  The laughter of the children, the atrocity of the mass graves and the sun shining as if to mirror the children’s oblivion.

Themes are important and I love books that ask questions of the reader. Science Fiction is great for this but then another genre may not be.

Well, look at the source. I write weird-arse books, so I don’t find it surprising that my books seem to attract weird readers. :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Requiem for a Lost Youth / Diana Hockley

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Mystery/Short Story

Approximate word count: 3-4,000 words

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


Diana Hockley lives in a small town in rural Australia with her husband and seven pet rats. In addition to several short stories, Hockley also has two novels available.


“Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you...”


As I try to figure out what to say about Requiem for a Lost Youth I think of a point, then say, “nope, that gives away too much.” All I can say is that there are at least two mysteries and a character or two who have a youthful indiscretion that comes back to haunt them, all packed in just a few thousand words. A quick, yet satisfying read.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four stars

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Number of the House is 13 / T. R. Sutherland

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Horror/Ghost Story/Short Story

Approximate word count: 6-7,000 words

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


In her day job T.R. Sutherland is a computer programmer. She lives in Florida with her husband and their dog.


“On this street the house was number 13.

For two adventurous cousins, the reputation this house has acquired is based on rumor, and they're determined to find out if there is any truth in it. They decide to explore the house to see for themselves what all the fuss is about. As soon as they approach the house, they become aware of a menacing presence. Their plan was to spend the entire night in the house, but with each passing moment the house slowly comes alive as a cold terror creeps in.

Will they make it through the night?”


I thought this short story started out well. A haunted house is a premise that’s been done before, which means originality is harder to find, yet it is also so well known that the setup is easy. This story started out feeling like one of those tall tales you might relate while sitting around a campfire late at night only with more detail and better descriptions.

The narrator (who I don’t think was ever named) and his cousin, Jett, set off to explore the haunted house. The foundation was set, the tension was building, and then I started seeing holes in the story. A room was described as having thirteen walls, which set my mind off on a tangent, trying to picture how that could be and how plausible it was. One second it is so dark that Jett was groping in the dark, trying to find a candle that had gone out, and the next they’re able to see the detail of the candle well enough to see that it had been “stuffed out” with someone or something pushing the wick into the melted wax rather than blown out. Later they sense two “persons” (presumably ghosts) “with the slightest possible distance between them” go by, yet in the next breath the beings have changed directions with the follower “steadily getting closer.” (I thought they were just as close together as possible.)

A ghost story, like any story containing things most of us are certain don’t exist, requires a reader to suspend disbelief. Usually I’m able. Here, with things I couldn’t picture and what seemed like one sentence contradicting the next, I wasn’t able.

The story ends with the narrator making the statement that he wonders “what was reality and what was nervous delusion.” Unfortunately I was wondering the same thing, only way too early.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: *** Three stars

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reprise review: Adrift in the Sound / Kate Campbell

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

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


A novelist, journalist and photographer, Kate Campbell grew up in San Francisco and has lived and worked throughout California and the West. Adrift in the Sound, was a finalist for New York's 2011 Mercer Street Books Literary Prize. Campbell's environmental and political writing appears regularly in newspapers and magazines throughout the U.S. She lives in Sacramento and, in addition to writing fiction and poetry, publishes the Word Garden blog.


Lizette is a gifted abstract painter with severe personality issues—perhaps bi-polar—although I don’t believe this was stated. Pressured to achieve as a child, when her artist mother committed suicide something snapped inside Lizette. Estranged from her father, she drifts into bad company, and makes unwise life-choices. The story follows Lizette as she struggles with mental illness and searches for meaning in her life. Although set in the Seventies, no attachment with that era is required to connect with this story.


I read because I love to lose myself in another world and experience life vicariously through someone else’s eyes. Also, as an aspiring writer, I read to learn. For me, reading Adrift in the Sound was tantamount to attending a fiction writing master class.

Tactile scene settings sucked me into a story as multi-layered as one of Lizette’s beautifully described oil paintings. Ms. Campbell colors her scenes with fine details, often transforming the settings into another character to add emotion. For example, after an argument with her father, Lizette turns her back on him and the house and takes the path in the rain toward the small cabin her mother used as her artists’s studio. Lizette perceives the cabin like this: “Two big windows stared into the tangled garden, watching the house through rain-streaked eyes.” Or her view of the car ferry that will take her to Orcas Island in the Puget Sound, where much of the story unfolds: “The wide-bodied boat nudged the dock, bounced against the pylons, settled into its berth like a lumbering beast nestling into a safe burrow.” Or the way the ocean appears to her: “The afternoon sun scattered silver sequins across the water.” I confess I have a ton more highlights on my Kindle; so many I had to stop myself. Unable to choose which to use in the review, I simply chose the first three—they’re all exceptional.

Lizette’s world is populated by a cast of complex, multi-faceted characters. Many are unpleasant. All were real to me. A brutal sexual assault early in the story permanently scars Lizette and scarred this reader along with her. It happened because she takes crazy chances and trusts the wrong people. But don’t see her as a weakling. On a number of occasions she does significant harm to those whom she perceives as a threat. Although, as I watched Lizette become a danger to others, I was never quite sure of her intentions. That’s a measure of how off-balance the author kept me, and how hard I was rooting for Lizette.

Lizette’s affinity for the native Indians who live on Orcas and form her support group provides more wonderful characters whose lifestyle grounds the story in history and in nature. I have no connection with Native Indians or their customs, but I found their lives and beliefs and plain commonsense added to the palette of an already colorful story.

The novel is a deep, slow burn, and not without humor. One particular scene involving a large snake and an unpleasant junkie had me laughing so loud I woke my wife (I read at night). A larger-than-life character--self-described poet, Toulouse--is described in the eyes of Lizette’s friend, Marian thusly: “Toulouse moved off with a flourish, tipping a goodbye from the rim of his foolish hat. Marian watched him go, his self-importance shoved up his ass like a mop handle.”

Complex, troubled, and gifted, Lizette connects with the natural world on such a deep level that she pulled me along until I stood beside her marveling at the natural beauty of an ocean wave, or the fearsome power of the killer whales as they hunt in the Sound, or the subtle simplicity of an old Indian woman dancing in a mask of feathers and bear skin. She broke my heart as we watched a seal taken by a predator, or a pet dog injured. I know, as she does, it’s natural. You can’t interfere, you can’t help—but still, you share the stab of her guilt.

With more “Oh, didn’t see that coming” moments than I had any right to expect, Adrift in The Sound is the best book I’ve read in a long time.

Check it out. You won’t regret it.   

Format/Typo Issues:

No typos to mention. Some graphic scenes and bad language (used appropriately).

Rating: ***** Five stars

#Free for your #Kindle, 7/24/2014

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.

The Birr Elixir by Jo Sparkes

Veganism: A Beginner's Motivational Guide for THE Most Healthy, Plant Based Lifestyle and How to Transition in to the Delicious Vegan World! (Vegan Diet) by Elizabeth Aron

The House on Persimmon Road by Jackie Weger

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, July 23, 2014

Monkey Talk / T. Lucas Earle

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Science Fiction/Short Story

Approximate word count: 4-5,000 words

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


“T. Lucas Earle is a writer and filmmaker. T. Lucas has a degree in Film Production from Emerson College, and currently works as a script reader in LA. His stories have been published in Electric Spec and The Colored Lens. T. Lucas also writes two blogs and reviews television pilots for Blogcritics. His dark comedy, Abduction, was premiered in the 2013 LA Shorts Film Fest.”


“Loosely based on the Chinese myth, the Monkey King, a timeless story about who belongs, and who doesn’t. In a future in which Chimps can give lectures on cybernetics, Mr. Towry is a Chimp with an attitude.”


Reviewing a short story presents challenges that are unique to the form. At least part of that is saying something meaningful, yet not too vague, without giving away too much of the plot. If I was familiar with the Chinese myth of the Monkey King the description says this is based on, I could riff on that. But I’m not.

Apparently (cribbing from the description again) that Chineese myth has something to do with “who belongs, and who doesn’t.” The interesting thing is, I could argue that Monkey Talk could be interpreted two different ways. First, in a world where a chimp can be an accomplished scientist like Mr Towry, where he and his fellow apes are arguably more evolved than humans, the obvious lesson is that being different doesn’t mean you don’t belong. However, as Mr Towry argues to his new human assistant, “we’re all animals,” and the story gives enough ammunition to someone so inclined to make the claim that Towry isn’t as evolved as he’d like us to think and doesn’t really belong. I’m going for the first interpretation, but think that leaving room for either interpretation is a positive and makes the story more thought provoking.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four stars