Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: I'm Not Happy 'Til You're Not Happy by Ryan Sayles

Genre: Crime Fiction/Noir/Short Story Collection


From a bank robbery gone horribly wrong to a shipwrecked man with a serious anger problem to a lonely teenage Peeping Tom, Ryan Sayles's second collection of stories steam rolls along. Need a transvestite beating up her drug dealer? Got it. What about a guy trying to stuff a dead hooker into his trunk? Got it also. Need a Richard Dean Buckner story? Got two of 'em. Come on in and join the mayhem.”


Ryan Sayles is the author of several books including the Richard Dean Buckner hard-boiled detective series.

For more, visit Mr. Sayles website.


A solid collection of short stories with one common theme. They're dark. Not just outside on a cloudy night dark. More stuck at the bottom of a long mine shaft dark. But there is also a touch of humor buried in many of the stories for a bit of comic relief, whether the absurdity of trying to fit a dead hooker in a too-small car trunk or at the end of the final story when hard-boiled detective Richard Dean Buckner gets a little too touchy-feely for such a tough guy.

Buy now from:      Amazon US      Amazon UK


All of these stories are hard-boiled and dark. Not for the squeamish. (If you're easily offended by strong language, you shouldn't even have to ask. It wouldn't be a book for you.)

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Return to Mech City by Brian Bakos

Genre: Science Fiction


The end of the world as you've never seen it before. Life goes on in Mech City, but it is no longer human. 
A sinister Roboto Fascist regime has taken hold which will destroy everything of beauty inherited from the human precursors. Only Winston Horvath, scholar model robot, and his unlikely allies stand in the way.


Brian tells us about himself: “I like to write and I like to travel. I'm from the Detroit area originally and try to see other places around the world as often as possible.
Not much more than that. Anything else I have to say comes out in my books which are all fiction - mostly for kids, some for adults. All of them are fanciful and designed to take you in new directions. If you want to know more, please contact me through my website.”


This is a light-hearted twist on dystopian sci-fi. Now there’s a sentence you don’t often read . The novel is set in a future time where robots are common and serve as sophisticated servants of man. We join the story as the last few humans are weeks from dying or already dead from a virus. The absence of humans leaves a void for the robot population. Lacking a raison d’etre, the metal men are inclined to commit suicide, until an aberrant robot assumes a controlling role and instigates a crude fascist society.

The main character—Winston, a scholar robot—is prevented from jumping head first out of a high building because on his master’s deathbed she instructed him to preserve his memory banks, which contain a vast store of human historical documents. He has a mission to preserve human knowledge. The story follows Winston as he grapples with fascism and undertakes an Oz-like journey to find a missing robot head.

I had fun with the story. The robots are heavily anthropomorphized—closer to cartoon characters than Isaac Asimov’s versions. The tale is told with a tongue firmly lodged in one cheek. For example, Winston has a robot love interest that yearns to consummate their relationship except Winston lacks a fundamental piece of equipment between his legs—poor Winston.

Plenty of action, even if some borders on the absurd. A prime example of a story you’d only find on an indie bookshelf.

Buy now from:      Amazon US      Amazon UK


Format/Typo Issues:


Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: The Truth about Sugar by E.M. Youman

Genre: Short Story/Coming of Age


She's a banshee screaming, sugar-starved monster, and her zookeeper has left you all alone with her.

That's what's running through twenty-nine-year-old Henry Dalton's mind, when his five-year-old stepdaughter, Rebecca, enters the room and utters these fatal words. 'Where's Mommy?'

After deciding that fixing this problem-child is the key to winning his wife back, Henry comes up with the perfect recipe for turning Rebecca into the world’s little angel. Out goes the Valium and sugar-free snacks. Add a little pizza, ice cream and presto! But he soon discovers there's more than meets the eye with Rebecca. Now he'll have to remember what it's like to be a five-year-old and learn to communicate on her level.

At the center of the chaos is a sweet, little girl, who can charm the pants off him.

Which leaves him wondering if she’s an out of control banshee, or a victim screaming for help?

The child he never wanted to claim is the one who needs a Daddy the most.

A heartwarming coming of age tale about appreciating the gifts you have right in front of you.”


A freelance writer who has had her short stories published in several magazines, by day E.M. Youman works for an independent music label.


The description calls this a coming-of-age story. And it is. Not only for Rebecca, the little girl in the story, but more so for her step-father who gets a much needed lesson in being a parent, both the bad and the good. A short, good read.

Buy now from:      Amazon US      Amazon UK


Some adult situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 9-10,000 words 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Reprise Review: The Ideal Household Appliance by Laura L Sullivan

Genre: Science Fiction / Short Story


“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.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: The Rick&Jerry Series: Collected Edition by Karl Five

Genre: Erotic Romance/LGBT/Adventure


It seemed that nothing was going to go right for me that day. I had finally made up my mind to end it all and jump off the Neuse River Bridge.

Then I picked up a hitchhiker and the world changed.

So begins the story of Rick&Jerry. I hope you’ll decide to follow along with them as they pull their lives together, face their fears and failures, and search for their dreams.”

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ask the Pals - Interrogating the Dead

In the second installment of our new feature, we ask the Pals a question having nothing to do with books. The question posed was, “If you could question any dead historical figure, who would it be and why? (And maybe what you'd ask them.)” Here's what those brave enough to answer had to say.


First person that comes to mind is Nikola Tesla. I’m not sure why but he reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein. Except he used mechanical parts instead of human parts.

The next one who came to mind was Carl Jung. I love his insights into the human condition. Not that I would want him to analyze me or anything like that. Wouldn’t that be scary? I don’t know what I would ask him there is a good chance he would judge me from my question, right? He would start by asking me why I asked THAT question and it would all come spilling out. I’d cry and he would cry, it wouldn’t be pretty. None of us really want to go there…

Keith Nixon

Emperor Vespasian, he was a career soldier & eventually made it to the top of the ladder in first century AD Rome. I wrote about him in a couple of books, he's a fascinating man. I'd ask him about his survival skills.


Who thought up this question? I have a ton of questions about the premise. Am I going back in time to ask them the question or are they coming forward in time to visit me? If they're coming forward, if my question requires an understanding of historical events since their death, do I have to explain to them what has happened in the interim, or will they appear in front of me with the required knowledge? If it is someone dangerous, will I be provided with bodyguards?

Editors note: Didn't I tell you in the preface to the original post that Al was going to go on and on and … anyway, I told him to answer those questions about the premise any way he wanted and then to answer the darn question. Why does he have to take something simple and always make it so complicated. Anyway, back to Al …

Fine. The bodyguard question is no. I figured that out once I realized we'd have to pay them. Definitely NOT in the budget. As to the others, they'll visit me. (No way I want to get trapped somewhere with no internet connection.) They'll also understand all the history they need to. (If you think I went on and on above, that's nothing compared to the background my historical figure would need to answer my question.) For those readers not from the US, I'm sorry this focuses on our history. I suspect most of you will understand the question better than I would understand the history of your country though.

My historical figure would be Thomas Jefferson. Why him? Because he and the group of men who laid the groundwork for our government (commonly called “the founding fathers” - yeah, I know, women didn't get their due back then) are always getting second guessed by politicians, courts, and regular old people. We wonder what they meant (you wordsmiths understand how your words can be misinterpreted, right?) We wonder if they think the spirit of what they intended is how things have turned out or whether they'd be shocked and think we've gone far astray.

My question is simple. I'd ask him to comment on how things have turned out thus far, both those things that have worked out better than he expected and those that haven't. I'd also have him pick the one area where he thinks we've screwed up the most. (Did they use the idiom “screwed up” in the 1700s? Maybe I'll need a translator.)

Your Turn

How would you answer this question? Tell us in the comments below. (Those who receive our posts via email have to come to the site to answer. Responding to the email only works if you want to share with BigAl and no one else. That will just give him a bigger head. Don't do it. Click on the title in the email to easily get here.)

And we're still looking for questions to ask the pals in the future. Email booksandpals(at)yahoo(dot)com with your suggestions. Be sure to put “Ask the Pals” in the subject line.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: Even the Wind by Phillip Wilson

Genre: Mystery/Police Procedural


Boston police detective Jonas Brant once was a grunt in Afghanistan, serving the greater good on the front lines. Now he’s on the cusp of a far different but still deadly frontier.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Caesar's Ghost by Reb MacRath

Genre: Supernatural/Historical Fiction/Suspense


Imagine Caesar reincarnated. Even better (or maybe worse, depending on your perspective) imagine his soul or essence coming to life in someone else's body. Almost like it is possessed only by an ex-Roman dictator rather than a demon. If you can imagine that, you've got the concept of Caesar's Ghost. I'll bet you thought it would have something to do with Perry White or Superman. Fooled you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: The Reluctant Terrorist by Harvey A. Schwartz

Genre: Political Thriller


Could the Holocaust repeat itself in America? Harvey Schwartz, a leading civil rights lawyer, returned from representing two Saudi detainees at Guantanamo Bay and wondered what it would take for America to turn on her Jewish citizens, as had happened historically in Spain, in England, in France, in Germany. His novel, The Reluctant Terrorist, resulted.

An atomic bomb destroys Tel Aviv, severing Israel. Surviving Israeli Jews are herded into refugee camps managed by Palestinians as Arab armies take over the country. The United States, demoralized by years of futile military actions in the Middle East, lacks the will to intervene. Two ships carrying thousands of Jewish refugees limp into Boston harbor, only to be turned away by the United States. As the ships are to be returned to the new nation of Palestine, Boston Jews are forced to decide whether they will use violence to prevent a repetition of America's rejection of German Jews before World War II. Primo Levi's plea of 'if not now, when' suddenly becomes an immediate decision for Jews to make, and for America's non-Jewish majority to react to. This sets the stage for increasingly severe hostilities between the government and American Jews, including bombings of shopping malls, a Million Jew March on Washington and the establishment of detention camps for hundreds of thousands of Jewish 'enemy combatants.'

The Reluctant Terrorist presents a plausible future in which the groundwork laid by the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, color-coded terror alerts and compromises on civil liberties blossoms against America's Jews.”

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: The White Voyage by John Christopher

Genre: Literary Fiction


Dublin to Dieppe to Amsterdam. A routine trip for the cargo ship Kreya, her Danish crew, and handful of passengers. Brief enough for undercurrents to remain below the surface and secrets to stay buried.

When a violent storm disables the vessel, the crew and passengers are forced to face their humanity and either pull together or face disaster.