Sunday, August 31, 2014

Exodus 2022 / Kenneth G. Bennett


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Science Fiction

Approximate word count:

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:

Kenneth G. Bennett is the author of the new eco sci-fi thriller, Exodus 2022, and the young adult novels, The Gaia Wars and Battle for Cascadia.

Description:

Joe Stanton is in agony. Out of his mind over the death of his young daughter. 

Unable to contain his grief, Joe loses control in public, screaming his daughter’s name and causing a huge scene at a hotel on San Juan Island in Washington State. Thing is, Joe Stanton doesn’t have a daughter. Never did. And when the authorities arrive they blame the 28-year-old’s outburst on drugs. 

What they don’t yet know is that others up and down the Pacific coast—from the Bering Sea to the Puget Sound—are suffering identical, always fatal mental breakdowns. 

With the help of his girlfriend—the woman he loves and dreams of marrying—Joe struggles to unravel the meaning of the hallucination destroying his mind. As the couple begins to perceive its significance—and Joe’s role in a looming global calamity—they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s newfound understanding of the cosmos, and outlast the time bomb ticking in Joe’s brain.

Appraisal:

This was a mixed bag for me. The opening scene was gripping. Joe and his girlfriend were very believable, and I was rooting for them both from the get go. The premise in regard to the Orca whales was fascinating, and the fantasy-elements that placed me within the whale were a lot of fun. For this reader, the story had a natural ending in the sea, the second exodus seemed drawn out and unnecessary. I already understood the premise and didn’t feel like I needed it repeated.

The antagonist—a billionaire arms dealer--was the element that gave me the mixed feelings. Throughout the story I couldn’t understand his motive, when it was revealed at the end I wasn’t convinced. Also, I struggled to believe that this man would have the resources he did, and he gets involved in some pretty gruesome violence that seemed gratuitous to me—I skipped past those sections once I understood what was going on, and I lost no context. So, I wonder, was it necessary to show the gruesome details. Then again, I am squeamish, so it’s maybe just me.

Mr. Bennett’s writing style is easy on the eye. He head hops the point of view quite regularly. In some instances this didn’t bother me, but often it took me out of the character and therefore out of the story. I think the novel would be stronger without the omniscient-POV hooks at the end of chapters.

Format/Typo Issues:

Very clean copy.


Rating: **** Four stars

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Gold-Diggers, Gamblers And Guns / Ellen Mansoor Collier


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre:  Mystery

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

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

Author:

“Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in several national magazines.”  A Houston native, Collier has written two previous novels in her “A Jazz Age Mystery” series.

Description:

“During Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, the Island was called the ‘Free State of Galveston’ due to its lax laws and laissez faire attitude toward gambling, girls and bootlegging. Young society reporter Jasmine (Jazz) Cross longs to cover hard news, but she's stuck between two clashing cultures: the world of gossip and glamour vs. gangsters and gamblers.

After Downtown Gang leader Johnny Jack Nounes is released from jail, all hell breaks loose: Prohibition Agent James Burton’s life is threatened and he must go into hiding for his own safety. But when he’s framed for murder, he and Jazz must work together to prove his innocence. Johnny Jack blames Jasmine’s half-brother Sammy Cook, owner of the Oasis speakeasy, for his arrest and forces him to work overtime in a variety of dangerous mob jobs as punishment.

When a bookie is murdered, Jazz looks for clues linking the two murders and delves deeper into the underworld of gambling: poker games, slot machines and horse-racing. Meanwhile, Jazz tries to keep both Burton and her brother safe, and alive, while they face off against a common enemy.”

Appraisal:

Jasmine (or Jazz for short) is motivated to figure out who was behind the murder of a bar owner, not only to prove her chops as a serious reporter, but because of concerns for her half-brother, Sammy, and her new squeeze, Prohibition Agent Burton. That her budding romance is with someone who works the opposite side of the law from her brother complicates things.

This was a fun story, made more so by the setting (I could picture at least a few of the Galveston landmarks in my mind) and the Jazz era slang. I found the slang amusing and easy to understand, but if you get hung up on it a section at the back will help you out. Perusing that list after finishing the book I was surprised to discover that, as anyone who’s spent time in Minnesota’s Twin Cities or watched the Mighty Duck movies would think, a Cake-eater isn’t always someone from Edina (a Minneapolis suburb).

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

FYI:

Although this is the third book in the series and I’m sure some of the characters made appearances in prior books, I didn’t feel as though I was disadvantaged understanding or following the story even though I haven’t read the prior books.

Rating: **** Four stars


Friday, August 29, 2014

A Home for Wayward Husbands / Johnee Cherry


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Women’s Lit/ Contemporary Fiction

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Availability    
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

Author:

Johnee Cherry says she “was born in Arkansas, played in Louisiana, and lived in Texas. Mostly in a small border town called Texarkana. It's just about a mile from here to there. And you still aren't anywhere. It's the kind of town in which you can stand on the steps of a Baptist church and lob a rock across State Line Road to hit the front door of the liquor store.”

For more, visit Ms. Cherry’s blog.

Description:

“When the damaged, but privileged Beau Smith shows up looking for redemption for his crimes, Bitzy, a simple chicken-farmer's daughter, has to wrestle with all the reasons why she should not take him back. Beau committed the worst crime a man can do, he made a big mistake, an accident happened, but instead of facing his wrongs, he abandoned his family.

Bitzy's best friend, Wes, arrives long-faced and moony with his wife-packed suitcase on the same night Beau returns. Beau has brought his ailing best friend, Spectrum Wallace, hoping for a place to let the man rest. Dot, Bitzy's sister, shows up to "help" Bitzy make the right decision. Of course, Bitzy has to let Stormie, their daughter, know that her "daddy" has popped back up in the world.

The story intertwines with Beau's star-stuck love for Bitzy in high school, to Wes's romantic ideas about Bitzy, to Leon Smith's hard-edged rules he serves up for Beau, until all their mistakes come home to be faced. Bitzy ends up with a houseful of other women's husbands, who all need her to love them in her special way: unconditional, completely, and forever and always. Which man will Bitzy choose in the end? Can Beau ask for redemption at this late date? Will Leon ever be forgiven for the harm he caused?”

Appraisal:

Wanna read about someone else’s dysfunctional family?  Sadly, I am from Oklahoma and could identify with far too many of these characters, LOL! That being said, I had a hard time feeling invested with any of them. I found the story disjointed with all the time hopping back and forth between past and present. It was never clear until well into a chapter where the author had taken us, which made the story difficult to follow and interrupted the flow of the story. The chapter headings didn’t help any in this regard either.

I think there is a good story here but it needs a lot of polishing in refining the time shifts and other editing as a whole. There are several characters in this story that include friends and extended family, they were unique, diverse, and pretty pathetic all around. Despite this, a few had some redeeming qualities. The topics are serious with a lot of truths exposed about small town, USA. Anyone who enjoyed August Osage County might enjoy this book also.

FYI:

There is a small amount of adult language and drug usage.

Format/Typo Issues:

Far more than an acceptable level of editing issues need to be addressed in this book. From copy editing to proofing errors that range from missing words, extra words, to just plain ol’ wrong words like homonym errors.


Rating: ** Two stars

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reprise Review: In Decline / Michael Crane


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Short Story Collection / Literary Fiction


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

Author:

Michael Crane wrote his first novel in high school. Then his second (still while in high school). He’ll be the first to tell you not to read them if you stumble upon them. A few years honing his craft including a stint earning a degree in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago prepared him for prime time. In addition to In Decline, he has several short stories available from Amazon. He also has two collections of “drabbles” (flash fiction of exactly 100 words each) from Amazon or Barnes and Noble for you Kindle or Nook.  For more check out the author's blog.


Description: 

Nine short stories of people getting by the best way they know how.

Appraisal:

In Decline is a short story collection "about people who are trying to get by the best way they can." Life can be hard - regardless of what your life has been like, charmed or barely scraping by, chances are you'll see yourself or people you know in some of these stores. What boy hasn't struggled to figure out how to relate to girls and had friends only make it worse as happens in The Roller Rink? Who hasn't watched a couple marry, knowing it wasn't going to have a happy ending, like Uncle Lenny?

Crane has a talent very few writers have. He can find the humor in a dire situation or find a way to sympathize with the most dismal characters. Some say that to read fiction requires the reader to “suspend disbelief.” That’s not the case here. These stories ooze truth.

Format/Typo Issues:

No Significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Death by Didgeridoo / Barbara Venkataraman


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Mystery

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 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:

Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection.

She is the author of The Fight for Magicallus, a children's fantasy; a humorous short story entitled If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place; and two books of humorous essays: I'm Not Talking about You, Of Course and A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities, which are part of the Quirky Essays for Quirky People series. Both books of humorous essays won the prestigious "Indie Book of the Day" award.

Description:

When Jamie Quinn’s mom dies of cancer, the family-law attorney quits work and tries to make sense of her life. But when her autistic nephew, Adam, becomes the prime suspect in a murder, she’s forced to engage the world again in order to prove his innocence.

Appraisal:

I don’t often read mysteries, but variety is the spice of life, and this book’s Amazon sample was appealing. I particularly enjoyed the author’s light and engaging writing style.

This is a short “taster” novelette, and as such it’s main job is to introduce Jamie Quinn--that part of the mission was well accomplished. Written in first person, Jamie occasionally breaks the fourth wall (speaks directly to the reader), and the technique worked—it got me rooting for her from the very beginning of the story.

The story itself rolled along nicely. I also enjoyed the politically-incorrect private detective, Duke. I suspect he’ll be coming along for the series, too.

The only problem I had was one of confusion. There were a lot of character names, and they blurred together somewhat for me, so that, or maybe because of that, I didn’t engage with any of the suspects. At one point even the author got a name confused, so I wasn’t alone. Also, Adam seemed such an unlikely murderer, that I questioned the DA’s logic; no matter how politically driven he was, I doubt he’d try to accuse a boy suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome of a murder with a blunt instrument.

All in all, though, a fast, light, fun read.

Format/Typo Issues:

I read on Kindle and it was double spaced, which kinda wore my page-turning finger thin.


Rating: **** Four stars

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crowing, Tooting, or Something Like That

Between multiple vacations and attempting to catch up the few days I was home in between, it snuck past me. I knew it was coming and meant to keep better track. But alas, it didn’t happen. So, in a belated fashion, I thought I’d crow about a significant milestone Books and Pals recently hit.



Two or three weeks ago (July 25, if I counted correctly), we published our 1,000th unique review. That took almost exactly three and a half years. Our very first post, a review of Vicki Tyley’s Brittle Shadows, was published on January 23, 2011. Thanks to all the readers, many who have been with us from the first days and weeks, and to the Pals, past and present, who are the critical piece in being able to review as many books across virtually all genres as we do. And thanks for the chance to toot our own horn.




We’ll now return to our regular programming.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ever Lost (Secret Affinity Book 2) / Melissa MacVicar


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Young Adult/ Paranormal/ Ghost Story

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 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:

“Melissa MacVicar lives on Nantucket Island with her husband and two children. She is a full-time teacher who loves classic rock, watching football, and reading anything that is romantic and suspenseful.”

Find out more about her at her website or stalk her on Facebook.

Description:

New town, new school, new ghost.

Jade has a dedicated boyfriend, an overprotective mom, and a full scholarship. Uprooted from Nantucket, Jade is installed off-island at her dad’s new house so she can attend snobby Layton Academy. Leaving Charlie behind is sheer torment, but living with her father has plenty of dangerous distraction—in the form of a terrifying spirit haunting her new school. Hottie classmate Mateo Fernandez can’t see the ghost, but he knows its story. He’d like to know hers, too, but Jade still misses Charlie, even though distance seems to be changing him.

With support from Mateo and the mysterious Noemie, Jade commits to helping the agonized spirit cross over. As she delves into the ghost’s past, the disturbing secrets Jade learns draw her into a deadly confrontation with a desperate man. If she can’t play his demented game, the spirit’s harrowing fate could become her own.”

Appraisal:

This story is told through multiple first person points of view that are clearly marked at the beginning of each chapter. The main characters are well developed and the dialogue between the students sounds believable. Of course the ghost doesn’t waste any time appearing to Jade and she seems a little better equipped to deal with him than she was in the first book. However, she is trying to adapt to a new school environment and make new friends.

The plot moves along at a decent pace as Jade fumbles around looking for a mentor to help her with the ghost since her Grandma Irving is too busy taking care of her sick Papa. Then there is the distraction of Mateo, the hottie who has taken an interest Jade. However she is still hung-up on her new step-brother, Charlie. This is one reason why Jade is now living with her father and enrolled in Layton Academy, a private school in Manchester. Luckily Jade finds a suitable mentor in Noemie before the plot takes a frightening turn.

I did find Jade a little more personable in this story, her narrating was interspersed with more dialogue which made the story easier to relate to. Noemie is an interesting character and she seems to have a lot to teach Jade. I hope she will be around for a while because she added a dimension that had been alluded to by Jade’s Gram in Ever Near and needed to be explored further. This opens up new possibilities for things to get very interesting or troubling for Jade in future stories. 

FYI:

Even though this is the second book in Secret Affinity series, Ever Lost could be read as a stand-alone. Any facts that you may need to know from Ever Near are repeated in this story for the readers’ convenience.

Format/Typo Issues:

I read an Advanced Reader Copy and I found no significant editing or proofing errors.


Rating: **** Four stars
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