Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: Infinte Zoe by Kingfisher Pink


Genre: Fantasy, although the author claims science fiction

Description:

Twelve-year-old Zoe Stanton’s happy home turns into a morose and lonely place when her mother is killed by a drunk driver. Her father sinks into depression, and she assumes the burden of trying to restore some cheer to the household. She fails, and her father goes missing. Zoe and her friend, Joshie, who has also lost his parents, go in search of her father in a “venture deep into the weird world of quantum theory.”

Author:

“Born in the City of Angels. Raised in The Last Frontier. Lived in the City of Roses and can remember when Portlandia was just a statue. Turned up MIA in the Big Apple and have seen the Moon Over Parma firsthand. Currently residing in the Biggest Little City in the World. I name my kids after outlaws, scientists and troubadours in the hopes that their future will be forever more interesting than my dreams.”

Appraisal:

I picked up Infinite Zoe for review because I’m a fan of science fiction, the sample text on Amazon revealed a pleasantly clean writing style and the author promised an adventure in string theory and quantum physics.

I also became engaged enough to want to know what happens to the main characters, Zoe and her pal Joshie, and I was curious to see how Kingfisher used quantum physics, string theory and a multiverse in a kids story.

It turns out that he doesn’t, although he does sprinkle jargon “superposition, decoherence,” and such, throughout the story. The author applies the physics of the very small to people-sized objects with little regard for science. String theory gets only a name mention and a multiverse is described as a place where “theoretically anything is possible,” including pony-sized seahorses that can fly, in abeyance of quantum or any other extant physics theory.

The author then tries to explain the oddity by noting that scientists are actually studying the breakdown of physical laws. Well sort of, such study primarily involves mutations in numerical constants in some physics equations over long periods. It might have been better to echo Einstein and just say quantum physics suggests “spooky” events and be done with it. In the spirit of, “radioactive spider bites Peter Parker--Pete gets superhuman powers.” Not science, but cool, let’s get on with the adventure.

While dropping science terms, Kingfisher evokes Chronicles of Narnia. Through a closet in the father’s basement, Zoe and Joshie enter an infinite tunnel of doors opening into ephemeral worlds that the author describes as existing momentarily in the way quantum bonds between electrons exist before decoherence sets in. However, the heroes are able to explore the quickly vanishing worlds because for them time stops. There is no explanation of why events are able to unfold in the worlds with time at a standstill.

Michio Kaku suggests, I assume whimsically, that déjà vu might result from brief interactions between universes when string vibrations are in phase. Something like that might have been better exploited than a basement closet that’s a portal to the infinite.

The author plays as loosely with the story’s internal logic as he does with science. In one world, Zoe meets “copies” of her parents who recognize her. She and Joshie have dinner with them. One wonders what happened to Zoe’s “copy,” which must exist. Why wasn’t she also home for dinner? He uses the phrases: “all things are possible” and “anything that can happen will happen” to explain the impossible. He seems to use them interchangeably even though their meanings are quite different.

For all my irritations at the author’s faux science and lack of discipline in maintaining logic and focus on a target audience (I assume young people), I wanted to know the fate of Zoe and Joshie. The bitter-sweet ending does not disappoint.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

None worth noting

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: Sam Waite


Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Concealed by RJ Crayton


Genre: Dystopian/Young Adult

Description:

“Seventeen-year-old Elaan Woodson is supposed to be one of the lucky ones. She received placement in the subterranean protection unit designed to keep select families safe from the deadly virus ravaging the world above.

She's found happiness in the routine underground, and even a budding romance with another teen lucky enough to get a coveted spot away from the virus.

But, as Elaan hears snippets of conversations from those closest to her and those in charge, she's beginning to think things aren't as safe as she believed. While Elaan has heard that what you don't know can't hurt you, she's beginning to think otherwise.

The truth may be the only thing that can keep Elaan safe. But can she discover it in time?”

Author:

RJ Crayton is a prolific author, with about a dozen of her books available. This book is the first in her Virus series. A former journalist and regular contributor at Indies Unlimited, Crayton lives with her husband and two kids in Maryland.

For more about RJ, visit her website.

Appraisal:

More often than not dystopian fiction, at its core, has a political point, taking a current political direction and combining it with a slippery slope argument, to make a point. If there is a political point at the heart of Concealed, I missed it. (We probably shouldn't rule out that possibility.) That doesn't mean there aren't politics going on, but the viruses infecting the world seem more of a natural disaster.

Regardless of what started the spread of the virus, this is a solid story that should appeal to older teens (the young adult audience), as well as adults. There is a coming-of-age theme, for those who like those kind of stories and as the first installment of the series the promise of more adventures to come.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

One instance of adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Kevin The Vampire by Will Madden


Genre: Paranormal/Suspense

Description:

Back in the 1980s, Kevin hoisted a firebrand to bad-assery as a new vampire outside the punk rock clubs of New York City. These days, he’s retreated to rural Ohio, where he lazes around an abandoned church, playing the organ and dreading the taste of the corn-fed locals. One night, a vampire hunter breaks into his sanctum bearing worrying news: another of Kevin’s kind has concocted a plot to turn the whole world into a hell for living and undead alike. The hunter proposes an alliance to destroy this rogue vampire, but Kevin suspects his would-be ally has at least one secret he isn’t telling.”

Author:

Will Madden is a Nashville based author, originally from the Bronx, New York. He holds a degree in something ridiculous from a fancy institution of higher education. By day he performs menial labor so that by night he has enough brain power to deliver the hard-hitting truths about the struggles of imaginary monsters. His name is only slightly less unGoogle-able than Pat Downs…”

Kevin The Vampire is Mr. Madden’s debut novelette. To learn more check out his webpage.

Appraisal:

I found Kevin the Vampire a smartly written novelette with a unique plot. Kevin faces the dilemma of a scheme which may or may not be the rantings of a madman. Kevin has known Crackle for years, he’s an old vampire who has tested his skills beyond its measure, perhaps to his mental deficit. Grackle, posing as a vampire hunter to the human world, has come to recruit Kevin to mount an assault against a plot to turn the whole world into a hell for living and undead alike. Grackle has an extensive battle plan and Kevin must decide whether to join forces with him or not.

Kevin has found himself a nice little existence in an abandoned church in rural Ohio. He’s not lazy, he redecorates his surroundings regularly by painting the icons with nail polish in gauche colors. He also repaired the organ so he could play Billy Joel songs. He is also smart, has a wicked sense of humor, and a conscience.

I enjoyed the complex storyline and watching the verbal sparring match between Kevin and Grackle. It’s going to be interesting to see what comes next. While the ending came to a satisfying close, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Kevin.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK

FYI:

Only one F-bomb.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing errors.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 12-13,000 words

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: Lost & Found by Scott Baron


Genre: Short Story Collection

Description:

A collection of four short stories.

Author:

A native Californian, Scott Baron was born in Hollywood, which he claims may be the reason for his off-kilter sense of humor. Before taking up residence in Venice Beach, he spent a few years studying abroad before settling into the film and television industry, where he has worked off and on for some time. Scott not only writes, but is also involved in indie film and theater both in the U.S. and abroad.”

Appraisal:

A small collection of four short stories. They vary from a western with a six-year-old gunslinger to science fiction to a reimagination of a classic fairy tale to one I'm not sure how to classify. The thing each story has in common is that they're offbeat, well-told, and quickly suck the reader into their strange worlds. At least it did this reader.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 15-16,000 words

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: Ogrodnik by Gary Raymond Coffin


Genre: Thriller

Description:

"An old man is brutally murdered while out for his morning walk on Mount Royal. Dissatisfied with the police investigation, his son, Elliot Forsman, is compelled to leave his criminology professorship so he can focus his fledgling PI practice on finding his father’s killer. Elliot and his partner, former policewoman Rivka Goldstein, track down the killer only to find themselves caught in a web of corporate conspiracy and hired mercenaries where even the local police cannot be trusted."

Author:

"Gary Coffin is a career IT guy who currently lives near Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) in the bedroom community of Rockland Ontario with lovely wife Kristina. Gary and Kristina have three children only one of which is still living at home. The Elliot Forsman books take place in Montreal, one of the great cities in this world and the city that Gary grew up knowing."

Appraisal:

Elliot Forsman has a new PI business with his partner Rivka Goldstein. When his father is killed and the police set the case aside he decides to go after the murderer himself. He gets involved with Dr Banik of Biovonix - a pharmaceutical firm - and with the mercenaries who work for him, putting his own life, and Rivka's, in danger. He enlists the help of an old friend, Rayce Nolan, an expert on guns and knives and on how to outwit an enemy.

Elliot is an interesting person, grieving for the death of his wife, starting up his new PI business and trying to find out why his father died. He is a courageous man, determined and focused.

The characters in this novel are uniformly good, believable and layered. The narrative drive is compelling and the dialogue is realistic.

However it seems strange that the book is called "Ogrodnik," the name of one of the characters. There is a hint of why at the end but there are many sections of the book where Ogrodnik doesn't feature at all. Elliot is the main character and he holds the narrative thread together although there are times when the book seems to lose direction.

Technically there is a problem with capital letters. They are used indiscriminately in all the wrong places:

" . . . Rivka Replied.

" . . . like this,” Said Rivka with a bit . . .

Several words are used incorrectly:

"After I declined captain Brebouef for a couple of years . . . "

There are some awkward sentences:

" . . . and the soldier spoke in a loud voice “Milos. Milos. Are you here?” In a thick eastern European accent as he walked down . . . "

And a very strange simile:

" . . . beside the couch was Rivka’s Smith & Wesson, lying on the floor like a dead fish."

Overall the book is really good and very enjoyable. It deserves 4 stars but the whole would work much better if the material was organised and had a further edit.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK

FYI:

Some graphic violence

Format/Typo Issues:

Some typos and a lot of grammatical errors

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Joan Slowey

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review: Moonlight Falling by Karissa Laurel


Genre: Urban Fantasy/Mythology/Romance

Description:

Moonlight Falling is a prequel novella to Midnight Burning; Book One of The Norse Chronicles.

Before he moved to Alaska, Chapman ‘Mani’ Mundy promised his twin sister he would find out why shadows seemed to follow him and why ice sometimes formed in his footsteps. For nearly three years, he has failed to keep that promise, but a budding romance with co-worker, Skyla Ramirez, inspires him to renew his investigation.

If Mani has any hope for a real relationship with Skyla, there can be no secrets or mysteries between them, but as he hunts for the source of his peculiar abilities, sinister adversaries with dangerous motives will emerge from the shadows to conspire against him.”

Author:

Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky. Some of her favorite things are coffee, chocolate, and super heroes. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. She loves to read and has a sweet tooth for fantasy, sci-fi, and anything in between. Sometimes her husband convinces her to put down the books and take the motorcycles out for a spin. When it snows, you'll find her on the slopes.

Karissa also paints and draws and harbors a grand delusion that she might finish a graphic novel someday.”

Find out more about Karissa Laurel on her website or Facebook.

Appraisal:

At the beginning of Midnight Burning we met Solina Mundy, Mani’s twin sister. We got to know Mani through Solina’s memories. Moonlight Falling is Mani Mundy’s story and isn’t as heavily imbued with mythology as the rest of the series.

Mani is a gentle, thoughtful soul with some serious questions about the phenomenon that manifest around him in times of stress. He hoped that moving to Alaska could help him find answers to his ability while still seeking the action and adventure of the wilderness he needed. The problem is he gets distracted enjoying his life and work. He’s found the perfect job for himself working for Thorin Adventure Outfitters in Siqiniq. Here we meet some of the cast from the first book of “The Norse Chronicles.” However, we are introduced to a different side of their personalities, before events and conflicts happen.

I enjoyed learning about Mani and Solina’s years growing up and the type of relationship they had. It explains a lot about their bond. Mani considers Val, one of the top tour guides, his best friend and it’s easy to see they are pretty tight. Skyla is a tour guide/veteran Marine Mani has admired from afar for the last three years while in Alaska. Skyla surprised me, we got to see a softer side of her confident demeanor. It was nice watching their relationship grow. She’s running a close race for my most favorite character in this series.

The ending is shocking if this is the book you choose to read first. Having read the other two books the ending is more of a bittersweet reminder of how this series all started. Moonlight Falling could easily be read after Midnight Burning to avoid the shocking ending, however, I wouldn’t advise skipping it altogether. It’s a wonderfully written addition to the series and I am glad Ms. Laurel decided to give us Mani’s novella.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK

FYI:

Moonlight Falling is book 0, a prequel novella, to The Norse Chronicles. Book one, Midnight Burning, and book two, Arctic Dawn, are published and available.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues in proofing or formatting and I am relatively sure I received an ARC for review purposes.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: White River by Curt Larson


Genre: Thriller

Description:

An EPIC Award finalist for 2016, White River takes you into the pilot's seat for a swashbuckling adventure in the skies and on the ground.

He landed every pilot's dream job, flying a seaplane in the wilds of Canada. It was working out pretty well, until he landed smack in the middle of espionage, 21st century style. Bad luck finds him as every turn of the propeller gets him deeper and deeper into trouble, until not only his survival but the survival of the girl is at stake. Does he have what it takes to navigate his way out of this one alive? And dare he trust the girl?

Author:

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Curt Larson started his professional career as a draftsman, quickly graduating into engineering where he was one of the pioneers of a new engineering technology, Dimensional Management. He prides himself on having a hand in the Dodge Viper and Ferrari F360 Modena, among other more mundane vehicles.

In the 1990s he started writing novels and short stories when the whim arose and found them much more interesting.

Appraisal:

I recently read and reviewed Yukon Audit by Ken Baird. So this is the second novel I’ve read that features a DHC-2 Beaver fitted with floats for water landings in the wilds of Canada. This plane certainly has a strong emotional connection for pilots and engineers. Apparently pilots will doff their caps at the sight of one. If you know what I’m talking about, you can quit the review right here and go buy the novel--you’ll enjoy the tale. Heck buy them both.

For this reader, the plane doesn’t have an attraction, so I found some of the finely detailed descriptions of its working and its handling a little long winded. I didn’t feel that way with Yukon Audit, but maybe I’m just “Beavered out.”

While the action was taking place, the story moved along a decent clip and was interesting enough, but that only covered three-quarters of the book. The last twenty-five percent dealt with “here’s how all the characters ended up,” and that section got really slow. It’s not an uncommon trait in thrillers, especially when a gorgeous woman who is totally out of the reluctant hero’s league is involved. Oddly enough, that same scenario was present in Yukon Audit (both women were NYC models). Probably a coincidence and not at all connected with the plane’s nickname, I’m sure.

Overall, this was a fast, easy read. The main character was well drawn. Pete, his plane’s mechanic, was a lot of fun. Pete’s dialogue was written colloquially, and it worked well--not an easy feat to accomplish, so kudos, Mr. Larson. The bad guys were somewhat stereotypical and the nefarious deed they were planning was glossed over. For a thriller, I found the story lacked tension. I never feared for the hero or expected him to suffer serious injury or to fail to thwart the bad guys. I expected him to rescue the gorgeous gal. And I didn’t much care for the pages that came after the “Thrill was gone.”

Buy now from:     Amazon US    Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: Cloak of Snow by Christine Rains


Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Mystery/Adventure

Description:

No one messes with Saskia Dorn’s family and gets away with it.

The same murderous shifters who had hunted her sister have attempted to steal a magical totem pole. Since the pieces are scattered across Alaska, Saskia, a polar bear shifter, takes her search to the tundra for any signs of the lost totems.

Instead she finds Sedge, the latest reincarnation of the old Inuit Bear god, who just happens to be the man who broke her heart.

They come across a small native village tormented by the Jinxioc, evil gnomes with an appetite for human flesh. Sedge declares he will rid the people of the menace, believing a totem token is nearby affecting the devils’ behavior. At his side, Saskia battles to save the tribesmen, but it could mean sacrificing herself.”

Author:

Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she's not reading or writing, she's going on adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She's a member of S.C.I.F.I. and Untethered Realms. She has one novel and several novellas and short stories published.”

Please check out her Amazon author page for all of her books or stalk her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Cloak of Snow follows Saskia to the northern tundra of Alaska in search for the fox totem token. Time-wise this novella takes place at the same time as book two, Silent Whispers. Saskia is the oldest of the Dorn sisters and the most hard-headed. She almost makes the youngest sister, Ametta, seem meek by comparison.

This story moves at a good pace. The characters are well defined and we get some insight into Saskia and Sedge’s past relationship which started when she was accepted to train as a Black Shaman. It’s been seven years since she walked away from Sedge and fully becoming a Black Shaman. Sedge, being the latest reincarnation of the old Inuit Bear god, is a typical Alpha male but seems to be able to exercise an extreme amount of patience with Saskia. He is definitely biding his time with her. However, she remains steadfast and refuses to give any sway for him to work with, despite the passion she still carries for him.

When they both come across a small remote village and learn of the tribes recent troubles with the Jinxioc, evil flesh-eating gnomes, Sedge pledges to help his people. The problem is they have no idea how horrifically evil and strong these little devils have become. The twists are clever and surprising. Sedge and Saskia are both faced with challenges that affect them both in a personal way.

Totem is turning into an enthralling series, the odds of recovering the totem tokens are beginning to look insurmountable. The stakes are getting higher and more deadly for all concerned. I can’t wait to see what the Dorn sisters have to face next to secure the sacred totem pole for the sake of all shifters.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK

FYI:

Cloak of Snow is book three in the Totem series. I believe this is supposed to be a six book series. Book four, Shattered Spirit, has been released, books five and six are set as pre-orders at the time of writing this review.

Contains adult language with several F-bombs and some graphic violence.

Format/Typo Issues:

I came across no proofing or formatting issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: You Have Been Murdered and Other Stories by Andrew Kozma


Genre: Short Story Collection/Speculative Fiction

Description:

You Have Been Murdered and Other Stories is a collection of weird, speculative fiction containing four stories dealing with the end of the world, both in terms of the death of the individual soul and the running down of the universe as a whole.

The title story presents a woman who’s been murdered and still has a dinner party to prepare for. In Teller of Tales, a young girl must take on the responsibility of being the necessary conscience of her city. Breach of Contract describes the plight of an oil man who just wants to insure production quotas, but is roped into saving the world. Lastly, The Trouble-Men details what happens when a man trying to survive the end of the world meets up with those who are ending it.”

Author:

Andrew Kozma is an award winning author based in Houston, Texas.

Appraisal:

What I was looking for when I decided to read this collection of four short stories was a quick read and a change of pace between two longer novels. It delivered on both.

Speculative fiction is a fairly broad umbrella with science-fiction and fantasy as the big name genres included in the description and horror as another. Then there are those gaps between and areas of overlap of that big Venn diagram where a lot of the more original stuff happens. The kind of things people either love or hate. This collection felt like it was in those areas. I found things to like in all the stories. Not my normal thing, but an interesting change of pace.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 8-9,000 words

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: The Obvious by J Cassidy


Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Description:

An alcoholic father, her mother missing since she was a child, all Sammy has are her friends. When their deceit starts to tear into their group Sammy must decide whether doing the right thing is worth losing everything.

Friendships can be fleeting, family can’t be chosen and the choices she makes will stay with her until the day she dies."

Author:

Here’s the only author description I could find, and I like it:

I'm J. Cassidy and I used to be an oak tree growing in a park in England. I still like to be decorated once a year.

I like pink, sparkly fluffles and rainbows.”

Appraisal:

This novel is chock-full of F-bombs and sex with a constant undercurrent of violence, and I loved every word.

On the pages without a sex act or a reference to one, you’ll find a twenty-year-old girl--Sammy--who is thinking or talking or being asked about sex. Yet this is in no way an erotic novel. Sammy uses sex. Sometimes as a weapon, but more often as a shield to insulate her from the internal damage of an abusive childhood, suffered at the hands of her alcoholic father who raised her alone after her mother walked out on a four-year-old Sammy.

Most of the swearing from Sammy is colloquial, intended not to insult, but to reinforce the tough shell she has built around herself. Only her close friends are ever allowed to peek inside Sammy’s emotional bubble, and even then, it is only a peek.

Sammy is a broken person. She doesn’t smile, she turns up the edges of her mouth. This story is a snapshot taken over a short period of her life. It’s sad, poignant, and wholly believable.

The writing is sharp, and fits the mood of the piece. There is a lot of colloquial spelling in the dialogue, but it works well, without getting tiring. The novel is set in England, in a blue-collar environment, but I believe American readers can soon catch the conversational rhythm.

If you have no problem with sex and swearing and unvarnished real-life drama and you are yearning for something “different” to read. You should check out this unique story.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK

FYI:

Heavy on F-bombs, graphic sex. English spelling and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

Our review copy had some formatting issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words