Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: Buried But Not Gone by Juli Monroe @1to1Discovery



Genre: Fantasy/Thriller

Description:
Denise Evans life has been hectic with an abusive husband and trying to protect her son. When her husband is killed, she thinks she can move on, but soon Denise learns that it’s not that easy to get rid of him. A local warlock and professor, Jim Novick, helps Denise with the evil spirit will risking his own life.

Author:
Juli Monroe authored The Warlock Files, an urban fantasy series located in the DC Metro area. Beyond being a writer, Juli is also a networking and social media coach. Learn more about Ms. Monroe’s writing or other services check out her website.

Appraisal:
If you have read any of Juli Monroe’s books from The Warlock Files, a few surprise guests show up that will pleasantly surprise you. But make no mistake, this is not a book about Dafydd and Paul. Juli has created new characters with big problems in the same universe – which is something I absolutely love.
Buried But Not Gone features a warlock that has special powers, but is also disabled. While his disability can hinder him at times, it doesn’t get in the way of doing what needs to be done to help Denise.

The characters are very different than those in Monroe’s The Warlock Files series, so it’s good to have a change of pace. It’s darker than her previous books, yet the characters are just as interesting and layered as they fight against Denise’s husband who has come back from the dead.

Beyond the characters, Monroe is careful with the mythology. These details are very important and add to the authenticity of the writing.

I found the warlock Jim Novick very compelling and I wanted to learn more about him. Buried But Not Gone was an enjoyable read and I hope Monroe continues with this as another series.

Buy now from:     Kindle US      Kindle UK

FYI:
While the book contains characters from Monroe’s previous series, it’s not necessary to read them.

Format/Typo Issues:
No significant issues.

Approximate word count: 81-86,000 words

Rating: **** Four stars

Reviewed by: Sooz


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reprise Review: Suddenly Sorceress by @EricaLuckeDean


Genre: Chick Lit/Paranormal

Description:
"PMS can be a real witch.

Ivie McKie isn’t your run-of-the-mill kindergarten teacher. After an encounter with a horny goat, followed by a confrontation with her lying, cheating fiancé, Ivie is shocked when the big jerk suddenly transforms into a skunk—the black and white furry variety.

Enlisting the help of her shopaholic friend Chloe and sexy club magician Jackson Blake, Ivie is forced to play a literal game of cat and mouse as she races against the clock to change her ex back before she's arrested for his murder... Ivie soon discovers what every witch worth her spell book knows: There’s nothing worse than a bad case of Post Magical Syndrome."

Author:
After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica Lucke Dean 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 180 lb. lap dog, and at least one ghost.

When she’s not writing or tending to her collection of crazy chickens and diabolical ducks, she’s either reading bad fan fiction or singing karaoke in the local pub. Much like the main character in her first book, To Katie With Love, Erica is a magnet for disaster and has been known to trip on air while walking across flat surfaces.

How she’s managed to survive this long is one of life’s great mysteries.”

Learn more at her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:
I’ve read books that combine something paranormal with another genre - romance, thriller, and horror immediately come to mind - but I don’t think I’ve ever read one that tossed chick-lit and paranormal together before. Both the story conflict and much of the humor in Suddenly Sorceress come about due to Ivie, the protagonist, finding that she can cast spells, although she’s not sure exactly how she’s doing it or how to undo what she’s done.

While I felt sorry for Ivie and wondered if she was going to find a way to turn her ex-fiancé back into a human, I was also laughing at her the entire time. Some of that was because of the situations she found herself in (getting attacked by a horny goat) and some was the author’s sense of humor or way of describing something. One example is the pop culture reference when Ivie as the narrator said she, “felt the wintry air soak into me and shook like Bruce Banner in the throes of a temper tantrum.” Another was prompted by her hair which changed color over time (although she wasn’t dyeing it) starting out with red highlights and eventually turning bright red, which prompted this:

I look like Ronald McDonald’s slutty younger sister. “Would you like a happy ending with that value meal?”

This was a very fun read, even for this non-chick.

Buy now from:    Kindle US    Kindle UK     Paperback

FYI:
Adult content and language.
Added for Reprise Review: Suddenly Sorceress was the winner in the Paranormal Romance category for BigAl’s Books and Pals 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards. Original review ran February 20, 2014.

Format/Typo Issues:
No significant issues.

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Rating: ***** Five stars

Reviewed by: BigAl



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Force of Will by Jack Volante AKA @VolanteJack



Genre: Short Story/Fantasy/Historical

Description:
What if the last emotion you experience, moments before you die, is the only thing that defines you in the afterlife?

This short story tells the first-hand account of one young man and what happens on his fateful last day in the magical land he inhabits. Little does he know that someone has been watching him from afar and has great plans for his future, although not in the way he would want. A spooky tale set in a paranormal, fantasy world and featuring the horrors of necromancy.

Author:
Form Jack Volante’s website: “A newly hatched writer in the self-publishing world. Jack has many stories currently bubbling inside his head, all trying to fight their way onto the page at once.
A lover of movies and a devourer of sci-fi and fantasy novels. Currently converting his fantasy screenplay into a full length novel. Jack has been writing, off and on, since 1997. Lives in Europe working in IT for a software company. Jack is also the proud father of two wonderful young sons.”
To learn more about Mr. Volante check out his blog or follow him on Facebook.

Appraisal:
We are thrown into the middle of a raging war just after a young soldier has been mortally wounded. He is not quite dead yet, however, and as he reminisces his life he hears a voice demanding him to get up and continue fighting. Even though he tries to comply, he is unable to because his legs are missing. This is an interesting perspective to be given as he describes the horrors of the undead army he had been fighting against. As the young soldier succumbs to death and the orders of the necromancer, his spirit, filled with an overpowering rage, rises in ghost form.

I found the story consuming even though I don’t normally read horror. It was the ghost story that drew me in and kept me reading. The twist of the ghost’s all-encompassing rage was unexpected and enjoyable at the end. I have to admit it left a smile on my face.

This short story was a quick read and well told. Future works from Mr. Volante could prove interesting to check out.

Buy now from:     Kindle US       Kindle UK

Format/Typo Issues:
I found nothing significant to speak of. An extra word, which can be seen in the preview, and a dropped ‘n’ on a word that should have been then, not the.

Rating: **** Four stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Print Length: 14 pages

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reprise Review: Thrall by Jennifer Quintenz @jennq


Genre: YA / Coming of Age / Paranormal

Description:
Braedyn is a normal girl just trying to survive high school with her two devoted friends, Royal and Cassie. Together they're doing a pretty good job of shrugging off the slings and arrows cast their way by the popular crowd when a new boy, Lucas, moves into the house next door. Suddenly Braedyn finds herself falling in love for the first time.

But as her sixteenth birthday approaches, Braedyn discovers humankind is at war with the Lilitu, an ancient race of enticing demons that prey on human souls. Her father is a member of the Guard fighting against the Lilitu - and so are the new neighbors, including her crush, Lucas.

As her world starts to unravel at the seams, Braedyn learns the right answers aren't always clear or easy. And as for ’good‘ and ’evil‘ - it all depends on how we choose to act.
Inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian myths of Lilith and her offspring, Thrall explores first love, strong friendships, and taking on adult responsibilities against the backdrop of powerful supernatural forces and life-and-death stakes.”

Author:
Jennifer is a film and television writer, author, and graphic novelist. She has written for Twentieth Television, Intrepid Pictures, and Archaia Studios Press. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.”

This is the first book in her The Daughters Of Lilith trilogy.

To learn more about Ms. Quintenz, visit her website.

Appraisal:
Braedyn’s life is turned upside down and sideways in this creative coming of age story. The Guard, a Special Forces group of human soldiers, thinks they have found a way to combat a coming war with the Lilitu, who are trying to break down the wall between the two worlds to take over earth. As Braedyn’s birthday approaches, she learns she is not who she thinks she was all these years growing up and neither is her father. This story examines nature verses nurture in an interesting thought provoking way as we experience life through Braedyn’s eyes.

I found the story compelling and my suspension of disbelief was easy to achieve. Ms. Quintenz did an excellent job conveying the high school tension between certain cliques in and out of school. Her characters were well rounded and the situations they found themselves in were realistic for the most part. This story has the potential for being an intriguing series. I hope the sequels will spend more time with Karayan. She had a disturbing upbringing and I hope that Braedyn can help her work through issues caused by that. There is potential for a mutually beneficial relationship between these two I would love to see explored.

There was a lot of high stakes action as the winter solstice moves closer and the Lilitu converge on the town turning young men into Thralls to build an army to battle the Guard on this side of the Wall. When a new unit of Guards and spotters converge, chaos ensues and Braendyn is put to the test to prove whose side she is really on. Will Braedyn’s humanity be enough to over-power her genetics? Only time will tell in this original, action-packed series.

Buy now from:        Kindle US      Kindle UK     Paperback

FYI:
Added for Reprise review: Winner in the Young Adult category for 2014 Readers' Choice Awards at BigAl’s Books and Pals. Original review ran August 19, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:
There are a few proofing issues, not enough to significantly impact my reading enjoyment.

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Rating: ***** Five stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin


Monday, April 25, 2016

Review: Koolura and the Mayans by Michael Thal @koolura



Genre: Middle Grade/ Fantasy/ Adventure/ Mystery/ Science Fiction

Description:
Koolura is no ordinary girl. Neither is her best friend Leila. While visiting Mexico, the girls discover a device which hurtles them back in time to an early Mayan civilization. The Mayans have troubles of their own—the alien Aquari people have all but enslaved them. They need a goddess to set them free. Could Koolura be the one?”

Author:
Michael Thal is the author of five published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura SeriesThe Legend of Koolura, Koolura, Koolura and The Mystery at Camp Saddleback, and Koolura and the Mayans. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner writing articles about parenting and education.”

Michael has a masters’ degrees in Education from Washington University, St. Louis and California State University, Northridge. Previously a middle school teacher, after suffering from a severe hearing loss leaving him near deaf, Michael redefined himself to become an award winning writer.”

Michael Thal is also a Pal here at BigAl’s Books and Pals. To learn more check out his website, where you will find Pop’s Blog, or the Koolura Series Facebook page.

Appraisal:
I think Koolura and the Mayans is my favorite book in the Koolura Series so far. Not only is it a fun adventure, it is a bit educational as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if this story sparked an interest in some to learn more about Mayan history. Of course there were plenty of fantasy elements woven in to make the story unique and captivating. Koolura gained new insight about her powers as well. The aliens added a fascinating element to the story. Advanced alien technology has often been theorized to be involved at many ancient sites around the world.

The plot is fast-moving as Koolura and her best friend, Leila, teleport to Oaxaca, Mexico to attend Koolura’s father’s wedding to Terri Lather. Leila’s parents are archaeologists, specializing in pre-Columbian culture, and Leila is anxious to explore ancient Mayan ruins. Their first stop is Monte Alban, the most important archaeological site in the Valley of Oaxaca. While they are exploring one of the ancient pyramids, where they don’t belong, they are thrown back in time over a thousand years where they encounter an alien race from the future enslaving the Mayans.

There were several twists which, without Koolura’s and Leila’s fast thinking, could have left us all with a wholly different future. The fact that the girls stumbled along the way added a touch of realism to their adventure. They are only twelve years-old, but they are smart, and a bit mischievous — they did break into a pyramid — after all. I also love the fact that these two friends communicate using American Sign Language like it is their own secret language. I can’t wait to see where their adventures take them next, the possibilities are now endless.

Buy now from:      Kindle US      Kindle UK     Paperback

FYI:
Koolura and the Mayans is the third book in the Koolura Series. Following book one, The Legend of Koolura, and book two, Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback. As with the first two books of this series, I think Mr. Thal included enough background material that this book could be enjoyed as a standalone.

Format/Typo Issues:
I noticed no issues at all with proofing or formatting.

Print Length: 137 pages

Rating: ***** Five stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin


Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: Spider's Lifeline by @LynneCantwell



Genre: Urban Fantasy/World Mythology/Native American

Description:
Webb Curtis lives in anticipation. His relatives do amazing things as a matter of course. His mother is Naomi Curtis, who facilitated the Gods’ power-sharing agreement that led to Their return to Earth. Older sister Sage saved the Earth by kicking the gods into action on climate change.

And Webb? Knitting is his superpower. He also knows the future, but only when he’s not directly involved. Now thirty-five and with a baby on the way, he is trying to find his place in the world. But his task will be complicated by a smoky interloper, an Icelandic princess, a tiny golden spider -- and Ragnarok, a.k.a. the end of the world. Not even Webb himself could have anticipated this...

Author:
Lynne Cantwell is a contributing author at IndiesUnlimited where she shares her knowledge about Indie publishing and promotion. She has a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University and is a former broadcast journalist who has written for CNN and Mutual/NBC Radio News, among other places. Ms. Cantwell currently lives near Washington, DC.

Ms. Cantwell is the author of The Pipe Woman Chronicles, which includes five books, The Land, Sea, Sky series, which includes three books, Spider’s Lifeline is the third volume in the Pipe Woman's Legacy books. Cantwell also has other works of fiction and non-fiction alike.”

You can learn more about Ms. Cantwell’s other books at her website or stalk her on Facebook.

Appraisal:
Spider's Lifeline is the third volume in the Pipe Woman's Legacy series and begins several years after the ending of Firebird’s Snare. At first I was a little disappointed to learn that Webb was now thirty-five years old. I suppose I wanted to watch him grow up. This book, however, has moved beyond a coming of age tale, instead dealing mainly with Norse mythology, concerning Ragnarok "Fate of the Gods," and Native American legends.

Webb does an excellent job setting up this story as well as filling in any background information we need to know. The story was mainly told from his first-person point-of-view with a few occasional point-of-view shifts to Sage, whose current mission intertwines with Webb’s nightmares. Several players are brought back into the mix to complicate and or help in the situation at hand. There are also a couple of new players woven in to make things even more interesting. One character has pleasantly surprised me and I eagerly wait to hear more about Antonia’s and Brock’s youngest son, Roman. He may well turn out to be an unsuspected ally. The other is the hereditary princess of Iceland, Ingrid Ingunnardottir, who seems to be causing disruptions on cosmic levels. Ms. Cantwell has indeed woven a tangled web.

I suspected as the story branched off into related story arcs—or strands of a web, if you don’t mind me saying—that there was no way to bring this book to a satisfying ending with Ragnarok looming. This story alludes to a disagreement between the Gods on a cosmic level that is starting to spill over into the mortal realm and might bring forth the end of the world. On the home front, society is breaking down and Sage is, yet again, conflicted about the role the Gods have chosen for her. This is also causing tension between Naomi and Sage as well.

One of the aspects I liked about Ms. Cantwell’s storytelling, which shines in this series, is the seeming role reversal of Sage and Webb. Sage’s patron, being the Phoenix, is outwardly more physically protective and aggressive. While Webb, being Heyoka—the sacred clown in the Lakota tradition—tends to be more introspective and creative. I love the unassuming air he exudes throughout this book. Despite the critical importance of this story to the series, Webb’s voice is light and easy to read. He is my favorite character of all and I loved getting to know him better.

If you are a reader who has aversions to cliff-hangers you may wish to wait for the next book to be released before reading this one. I could see it coming as there were many strands to this tangled web that needed resolving. I felt like I knew this author well enough that she wouldn’t let the story suffer by closing things up too quickly. So for that I was thankful. Now, I can’t wait for the next addition to this series. Hurry hard, Ms. Cantwell.

Buy now from:     Kindle US      Kindle UK    Paperback

FYI:
Spider's Lifeline is Book 3 of the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. While this book could be read as a stand-alone, because Ms. Cantwell does an excellent job filling the reader in on pertinent info, do yourself a favor and read book 1, Dragon’s Web, and book 2, Firebird's Snare.

I need to add a warning here, there were several F-bombs dropped and sexual abuse, including a mildly graphic rape, for those who have sensitivity in these areas.

Format/Typo Issues:
I found excellent formatting and editing.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Print Length: 184 pages



Thursday, April 21, 2016

Reprise Review: Will You Love Me Tomorrow by @DannyGillan



Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Humor

Description:
Claire Rivers returns home to find her husband, Bryan, has committed suicide, no longer able to deal with his depression. A music executive, Jason Clemence, calls and offers Bryan the recording contract he’d always craved, unfortunately the artist is no more. Claire however, at Clemence’s suggestion, agrees to publish Bryan’s music posthumously, to massive success…

Author:
Danny Gillan was raised and still lives in Glasgow, Scotland. His first ambition was to be a musician, but ended up in the pub and hotel trade for a number of years in a wide variety of roles, interspersed with periods in social care.
Danny has written two novels, and a series of short stories which have appeared in several magazines and anthologies.

You can learn more about Danny at his Amazon author page. Also feel free to stalk him on Facebook.

Appraisal:
I’ve previously reviewed another piece of Danny Gillan’s work, A Selection of Meats and Cheeses – a collection of short stories, so I was very pleased to pick up a full-length novel of the author’s.

This is a long book (for me anyway) at 130,000 words however, even the shortest of narratives can feel like they take forever to read if they’re badly written, and vice versa. In this case the story literally tripped off the pages and I found myself hooked – Will You Love Me Tomorrow becomes increasingly compelling as it progresses.

One of the aspects I liked about it was the relatively few characters, meaning the author achieved a significant focus on the impact of Bryan’s depression / suicide. All were strong, well-drawn and added to the story and its progression. One in particular I liked was Clemence’s boss – Phillip Doland. He’s someone most of us would recognize (I do), a manager who’s risen to the top on other people’s hard work. Phillip uses bizarre swear words and is oblivious to everyone around him because all he sees is himself.

Claire herself is also very good. She could have been swept away in the suicide and aftermath, but strengthens throughout and finally turns the tables on the record company. Jason is a fish out of water, one minute confident, the next shaky. His interaction with Phillip is well done. Another valuable character is Bryan’s brother Thomas. He’s dislikable, a stuffed shirt who never valued his brother’s ability.

The story is made all the more touching, because, with the suicide laid out at the beginning, the reader knows the characters can do nothing to prevent Bryan’s fall. But we see the why and the characters learning from this as an experience.

The author’s experience in this field came through very clearly. Gillan doesn’t glorify the depression, rather it is portrayed as an affliction that can have a terrible impact on people – the treatment was compassionate, caring and tinged with humour. In fact, the latter element lifted the story too, it was by no means down and depressing. Ultimately it was uplifting and positive. The conclusion was satisfying.

Well written, touching, funny and reinforced my view that Danny Gillan is a high quality writer.

Buy now from:         Kindle US      Kindle UK     Paperback

FYI:
Some swearing.
Added for Reprise Review: Winner in the Humor category for 2014 Readers' Choice Awards at BigAl’s Books and Pals. Original review ran September 10, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:
Nothing major.

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Approximate word count: 125-130,000 words

Rating: ***** Five stars



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: What Happened to Winn Bailey by @EdwardGoldSFF



Genre: Short story/ Science Fiction/ Mystery

Description:
What Happened to Winn Bailey is a story about a man who wakes up in a strange place with no recollection of how he got there... and he's not alone... 

Author:
Edward Gold is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author and he also writes Children's books. He has won several contests for his short stories and has published several poems. He is the Organizer of a local writer's group with over 1,100 members. He has also produced, designed, and edited newsletters for several agencies and literary magazines. Learn more at his website.

Appraisal:
Set firmly in the sci-fi realm, this is a short story mystery. On the first page, Mr. Bailey wakes up in a very strange environment. I found the descriptions of his room intriguing and compelling. As the scene changes, the mystery deepens and develops and kept the pages turning.

Often in a short story, I find myself cheated by an ending that either doesn’t explain enough or is too trite to believe. But in this instance, the finale was both satisfying and thought provoking, although I had to wait until the last page to find out what was truly going on—which is as it should be.

Buy now from:         Kindle US        Kindle UK

Format/Typo Issues:
None.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber


Approximate word count: 5,000

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reprise Review: Weighted by @CiaraTKnight



Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Approximate word count: 10-11,000 words

Author:

Ciara Knight is the author of YA novels and speculative fiction. A native of Tampa, Florida, she currently resides in Kennesaw, Georgia where she is working on the third installment of The Neumarian Chronicles series, Balance. When not writing, Knight loves to travel. She’s even landed in a helicopter on an Alaskan glacier. Learn more about her at her website

Description:

Raeth Arteres, a Neumarian, is a prisoner on board the Queen’s airship. She is about to be interrogated by one of the queen’s henchmen using an experimental neuro-alterer. Raeth doesn’t expect to live to see adulthood. Her only hope is to keep the knowledge of her power from the evil Queen so as not to betray her family or her people.

Appraisal:

Weighted is a gripping novella about survival and loyalty. Ciara Knight does a wonderful job whetting the appetites of her readers with this 44-page thriller prequel to The Neumarian Chronicles series. In so doing, the author does an amazing job of developing her characters, especially the evil Queen and her naïve daughter, Princess Semara. Raeth soon learns that Semara may be her only hope for survival, or is she the good cop building trust to uncover Raeth’s biggest secret?

Availability:      Kindle US        Kindle UK  

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Reviewed by: Michael Thal

Rating: ***** Five stars

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Girl With The Cardboard Port by Judith L. McNeil


Genre: Memoir

Description:
This is the second of a two-book memoir. Beginning where the previous book ended, with fourteen year old Judith standing at a railway station in Queensland with all her belongings in a cardboard port (a cheap suitcase), it follows her life as she is flung from one disastrous situation into another. The first book--No One’s Child—is the best memoir I’ve ever read. You can find my review HERE. I’d say it’s essential to tackle that (you won’t regret it) to gain an understanding of Judith’s remarkable upbringing and the lack of adult support she received, which has a huge bearing on how her life turned out.

Author:
There’s not much in the way of publicity for this author. She wrote her life story in two books: No One’s Child and The Girl With The Cardboard Port. Her bio on Amazon offers this: “Judith L. McNeil lives in Queensland, Australia. She is now retired after decades spent working as a caregiver for the aged, but volunteering in the community is still very much a part of her life. Her interests other than writing are breeding Shitzus, landscape painting, and reading.”

Appraisal:
It’s difficult to write a review of this memoir without including spoilers—after all it’s a sequential look at one life. Once again, it’s Judith’s willingness to share her story truthfully and in bare-boned detail that makes this such a compelling read. Prepare yourself for a brutally honest peek into a world you’ll find hard to believe exists. I can only admire her fortitude and reflect on what a remarkable woman she is to have survived with her spirit intact.

I said in my review of the first book that I came away from reading No One’s Child buoyed by her humanity and humbled that she took the time to share her life with me. That was not the case with this story. I felt anger at the way her life had been effectively stolen from her until she reached her thirties. I regret that she has been left with permanent reminders of what she has lost. Judith McNeil is clearly a woman of substance who could have achieved great things had she been given the opportunity and support from responsible adults. Maybe that’s the moral that her life story leaves behind.

Buy now from:     Kindle US       Kindle UK

FYI:
No typos to mention. Australian dialect, but not an issue for comprehension.

Print Length: 245 pages

Reviewed by: Pete Barber


Rating: ***** Five stars