Saturday, July 4, 2015

All Summer on a Date / Geralyn Corcillo


Reviewed by: Reviewer Name

Genre: Romantic Comedy/Short Story

Approximate word count: 9-10,000 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:

When she was a kid growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo dreamed of one day becoming the superhero Dyna Girl. So, she did her best and grew up to constantly pick up litter and rescue animals. At home, she loves watching old movies, British mysteries, and the NY Giants. Corcillo lives in a drafty old house in Hollywood with her husband Ron, a guy who's even cooler than Kip Dynamite.”

For more, visit Corcino's website.

Description:

It's New Year's Eve...and reformed iconoclast Summer Hodiak has landed an absolute dream date. The gorgeous Kyle Hunter has it all: impressive career, much-used gym membership, and most of all, class. But when an unexpected dilemma slams into their exquisite evening, not even the perfect guy can keep Summer from following her nature. What she decides to do and how her date turns out, not to mention how she handles the dog and the IT guy, well...it's all Summer.”

Appraisal:

A short, fun read with plenty of humor, not only from the lead character Summer Hodiak (who is plenty amusing by herself), but from the situation she finds herself in. There's even a lesson here. (Think Rolling Stones – you don't always get what you want, but sometimes, you get what you need.)

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Friday, July 3, 2015

Reprise Review: The Earthquake Doll / Candace Williams


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Coming of Age

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 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:

“Candace Williams lives with her husband and beloved rescued Iggys (Italian Greyhounds)in Texas. Her first novel, The Earthquake Doll, was inspired by her early experiences in post-war Japan while her father was serving in the Korean Conflict.”

Description:

“The gap between the old Japan and the new is never so wide as when it tears open a young girl’s heart… It's 1952 Japan, seven years since the war was lost to the Americans, seven years since Miyoko lost her father and the home of her birth. Now she must earn a living caring for the children of an American family at the nearby air base.

When tragedy strikes, sixteen-year-old Miyoko is ordered to obey her family's wishes or disgrace the memory of her father and bring hardship upon her family. Tradition says she must obey, but her secret heart whispers that the new laws can free her.

As the earth trembles and splits beneath her, Miyoko must jump forward—or back.”

Appraisal:

This story is told through Miyoko's eyes as she struggles with profound cultural changes that no doubt swept through Japanese society after World War II. The philosophical and physiological affect on Japanese women struggling between traditional values and the modern freedoms brought in from the west was exemplified through Miyoko's story.

The characters were well defined and the situations were believable. It was educational to see Japanese culture through Japanese eyes. We have all heard about how respected honor is to the Japanese people, but I doubt many understand the depths of the word as far as this society is concerned. I know I had to sit back to take it all in.

This is a wonderful story and I feel enlightened having read it. The lessons Miyoko learned are as complex as her history and are summed up in these two quotes. “Obedience without choice is not honorable. It is merely survival, without grace or joy.”  and “...to survive one must be able to bend without breaking.” The story is how she came to realize these truths. The plot moves at a good pace as Miyoko struggles with her dilemma of how to keep harmony with her family, friends, and most of all her own secret heart.  Outstanding job for a debut novel, Ms. Williams. 

FYI:

Ms. Williams has included a glossary of Japanese terms and family relations at the beginning of the book. I was a bit overwhelmed seeing these worrying I wouldn't be able to follow, but the author made it easy, it was a needless concern. My insecurities always jump to the forefront of my brain. I need to work on that.

Format/Typo Issues:

Nothing at all jumped out at me with editing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five stars      

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Feng Shui & Charlotte Nightingale / Pam Ferderbar


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 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:

Growing up in Wisconsin, Pam Ferderbar worked at the “family advertising photography business where she honed her skills as a TV commercials director, and was paid to play with imaginary friends called actors.” After college she moved to Los Angeles and continued directing commercials as well as adding screenwriting to her activities. An earlier, novella-length version of Feng Shui & Charlotte Nightingale sparked a bidding war for the movie rights, only to have the deal fall apart when the executives in charge of the project were fired a few months later.

Pam has now returned to her roots, living in Wisconsin, working with her father and writing her next novels.

Description:

Charlotte Nightingale has the worst luck in the world. Every day is a bad hair day. Her boyfriend’s a snake, her job blows, and her own family seems to hate her.

For over 4,000 years the Chinese have practiced the ancient art of Feng Shui, a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure health, love and good fortune for people inhabiting it. The Chinese never met Charlotte Nightingale.

A handsome Chinese food deliveryman/Feng Shui master takes pity on Charlotte and breaks out every tool in his Feng Shui arsenal to bring her some modicum of happiness. It rocks her world all right. Charlotte’s life goes from bad to worse.

When everything comes crashing down and run-of-the-mill catastrophes pale in comparison to recent events, Charlotte unwittingly embarks on a great adventure during which she finds romance, a new wardrobe, bags of money and most importantly, herself.”

Appraisal:

What a fun read.

Charlotte has one kind of luck. The bad kind. She has a dead-end job at a slimy car dealership, lives in an apartment where everything is falling apart, and has a leech for a boyfriend. She dreams of being able to afford to go back to school to become a librarian. In contrast, her sister Charlene is a fashionista who has all the good luck including good looks and a rich doctor as her new fiance. (Her goals appear to be limited to looking good and marrying well.)

What made this story so fun, beyond Charlotte being a character I found easy to root for, was the humor. There was something different about it, but I had a hard time putting my finger on exactly what. I almost described it as subtle slapstick. But that's wrong. The definition Wikipedia gives for slapstick is that it “is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity which exceeds the boundaries of common sense.” The humor here is slightly exaggerated, at times, and might sneak past the boundaries of common sense occasionally. But I wouldn't call it physical. (Okay, maybe it was even that at times, at least as much as a book can be.)

I finally came to the conclusion that what was different is how visual it was. I rarely read a book where I picture many scenes unfolding in exquisite detail like I did here. At times, it felt like watching a movie as the scene unfolded in my mind. Given the author's history working in visual media, both photography and TV commercials, my theory even seems to make sense. Give it a read and let me know if you agree.

FYI:

A small amount of adult language and some mild adult situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Skeleton Run / John L. DeBoer


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Thriller

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 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:

A retired surgeon and father of two grown sons, John DeBoer lives in North Carolina with his wife. He has written five other novels.

Description:

"Twenty years ago, four teenage boys left a baby behind in a crushed car after they caused the tragic accident that took the mother’s life. Ever since, they’ve guarded the secret that would’ve ruined their lives and destroyed their future careers. But when one of them succumbs to illness, a blackmailer makes contact, and the survivors realize that, somehow, someone else knows. Now, everything that matters to them is at stake.

Las Vegas billionaire Wendell Logan is pursuing the role of political kingmaker, and he’s selected his unsuspecting king: Alan Granger, governor of Pennsylvania. Granger confesses his closet skeleton to Logan, but the tycoon has invested too much time and money into Granger’s future presidential campaign to let him and his old friends endanger Logan’s power play.”

Appraisal:

There are a couple of major themes that run through Skeleton Run. The first and most obvious, how skeletons in the closet can come back to haunt you. While many of us made mistakes when we were young and stupid, I trust few of us have skeletons as serious as the boys in this book. The other theme is money in politics, specifically by looking at what might go wrong with allowing the rich and powerful to have few restraints on political donations in the wake of the US Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision. The result is a fast-paced thriller with some entertaining twists, including an interesting way of tying the initial thread of the accident and the baby left behind to the more current timeline and political intrigue. Thriller fans will find Skeleton Run to be an intense, satisfying read.

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fleischerhaus / Melissa Bowersock


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Mystery/Paranormal

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 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:

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: biography, contemporary, western, action, romance, fantasy, paranormal and spiritual. She has been both traditionally and independently published and is a regular contributor to the superblog Indies Unlimited. She lives in a small community in northern Arizona with her husband and an Airedale terrier. She also writes under the pen name Amber Flame.”

Description:

Julia Martin, newly-divorced but still reeling from her husband’s infidelity, takes a much needed vacation to visit old college friends in Germany. While touring a little-known concentration camp and museum, she spontaneously experiences a violent past life memory of being murdered in this very camp during the Holocaust. Efforts to understand her memories only lead to more questions, the largest being: is her killer still alive? Supported by her friends and comforted in the arms of a handsome doctor, Julia attempts to uncover the mysteries of her past life and find justice for the person she used to be.”

Appraisal:

Wikipedia says that suspension of disbelief “is a term coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a 'human interest and a semblance of truth' into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.” To put this in a more simplistic way, write a good story, and the reader will willingly (probably subconsciously) play along with the parts they'd never believe in real life.

At its heart, Fleischerhaus is a mystery. Actually two. The first is what is causing the protagonist Julia to have the flashbacks? Hallucinations? Whatever it is that happens when she visits the site of a former concentration camp feels like a memory of a past life, but her brain doesn't want to believe. I'd never believe this in real life, but while reading I was onboard from the start, not questioning it at all.

The mystery of who Julia was in this past life was the first puzzle to be solved. (If they could verify the things she was feeling actually happened, then maybe she really was experiencing something from a past life. As those pieces started falling into place it setup another mystery, who murdered her in that prior life and was it too late for him to face justice? This was well written. Integrated what I'm assuming are reasonably accurate bits of history into the story, and was a clever, well executed story idea. Definitely recommended if an offbeat mystery appeals to you.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Monday, June 29, 2015

Solomon the Peacemaker / Hunter Welles


Reviewed by: MichaelThal

Genre: Science Fiction

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:

Hunter Welles is a self-described “odd-jobber” and freelance computer programmer. When he finds time to write, his favorite part of the process is reaching out to his readers and the feedback they give him regarding his craft. He lives in Bemidji, Minnesota with his wife and baby.

Description:

Vincent Alan Chell, an employee of a late 22nd Century pharmaceutical manufacturer, lives in the United States of North America. His world has been at peace for generations due to the work of a super computer, Solomon, and its human hosts.

Solomon the Peacemaker is a confession. Vincent has committed a terrorist act and is telling his story to an interrogator through 26 interview sessions.
During his narrative, Chell reveals his biography, his relationship to his first wife, Yael, and his second wife, Alma. The marriages are linked through a connection to the Preacher, the pastor of the Church of Incarnation, who is unhappy with a computer deciding the fate of the human race, even though world peace has been achieved. 

Appraisal:

The reader is drawn into the mystery of Vincent’s crime from page one until it is revealed at the novel’s end. Throughout the book Hunter Welles keeps the readers’ interest through a fast-paced first-person prose. The author creates a believable world with very real characters reacting to a society dependent on intelligent machines. Each interview session contains twists and turns in a life headed for disaster.

Any science fiction reader with a love of mystery and suspense will enjoy Solomon the Peacemaker.

FYI:

I felt the ending was abrupt and resented the author for not including an afterword regarding Vincent’s fate or the affect his act had on his society.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Reprise Review: Different / Frank Mundo


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/ Coming of Age/ Humor/ Drama

Approximate word count:30-35,000 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:

“Frank Mundo is a full-time writer in Los Angeles. He has a BA in English from UCLA, where he also completed the Creative Writing Program. His stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in dozens of journals, magazines and anthologies in print and online... Mundo is the author of the award-winning novel in verse, The Brubury Tales (foreword by bestselling author and critic Carolyn See), a modern version of The Canterbury Tales, set in Los Angeles; and Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy and Other Stories, an interconnected collection of his very best short stories published over the last 15 years.”

Description:

“One morning 12-year-old Gregory Gourde wakes up in his bed with an impossible new feature: his head has become a watermelon. We follow Gregory down a rabbit hole of sorts to a new world and an audacious exploration of what it really means to be different in this dark yet humorous nod to Kafka's Metamorphosis and Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.”

Appraisal:

Gregory Gourde certainly does take a trip down the rabbit hole in this dark fantasy; I felt like he was skating on the edge of madness for most of this story. Surely this is not what it is like for most boys going through puberty. But the author’s prose had me convinced that it had been for him. Frank Mundo does not just throw words at the page in hopes that they stick. There is much thought put into the words he chooses and this story will leave you thinking about it long after you have finished the story. This is the sign of a true wordsmith.

The story is told through Gregory's eyes with an omniscient narrator who pops in occasionally to move the story along or fill in past events of Gregory's life or other characters that played an important role. This is masterfully handled by the author and gave me a chance to let things soak in. Gregory is desperately seeking sanity and consistency despite his dysfunctional family. He is a smart kid and until he embraces and accepts himself for who he really is things go awry. Especially when he is told he does not belong in this alternate reality.

This was not an easy read for me, I tend to get too involved with the characters in the stories I read. So when things do not go well for the characters I have invested in I feel their pain. That is why I try to stick with fantasy. Gregory's problems are realistic, the manifestation of his problems are fantasy but certainly real in his mind.

The characters are beautifully written and darkly wonderful in their own way. The plot moves at a nice pace throughout the book. This is a fantastic journey of self-discovery, and I am glad I survived the trip as well as Gregory.

FYI:

Adult language and content. Not for children.

The artwork included in this story is excellent, it adds a dimension not usually found in books. I read this on my Paperwhite and the images came across beautifully.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant errors.

Rating: ***** Five stars