Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blue Wicked / Alan Jones


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Police Procedural

Approximate word count: 80,000-85,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
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Author:

Alan Jones was born and brought up in Glasgow but now lives on the Ayrshire coast. Jones works in the animal health industry. He’s been writing gritty crime for a decade, and publishes his work under a pen name. In his spare time Jones makes furniture, sails boats, reads and cooks.

You can learn more about the book at www.bluewicked.co.uk

Description:

Eddie Henderson is investigating a series of brutal murders around Glasgow, but no-one in the authorities wants to listen to him. Eddie is a vet and the victims are all cats, killed in a fashion designed to maximize pain and suffering. When human remains start appearing, killed in exactly the same fashion as the felines, Eddie finally gets some attention. He begins to track down the killer with the help of junior detective Catherine Douglas but the bodies begin to pile up…

Appraisal:

Some months ago I reviewed Jones’ debut, The Cabinetmaker. It was an interesting novel that had much going for it and, when the author’s second work appeared, I was more than happy to take a look. And I wasn’t disappointed. In Blue Wicked Jones takes a huge step forward as a writer (and he was in a good place to start with). This is an accomplished, well-constructed crime novel that deserves a wide audience.

The opening is very intriguing – Henderson investigates a death, but it’s not conventional in approach. Henderson isn’t a copper and the body is a cat. It’s a quick reveal that cleverly shows the reader this story is a little different. In addition that the investigating protagonists are a vet and a wet behind the ears DC are also somewhat novel. The setting is suitably grim Glasgow, so the other main characters and the action are within this mould.

The story itself clips along, and does not sag at all. I read pretty much the whole of Blue Wicked on a long transatlantic flight rather than sleep. There’s a love interest for introverted Henderson and, even when you think the story is told, there’s more to be revealed. I’m reluctant to say more in case of giving away the plot.

With The Cabinetmaker the author produced a mass of supporting information on a website and he has done the same here too at www.bluewicked.co.uk. For those interested in backstory, you won’t be disappointed.

Good, solid writing. I look forward to Mr. Jones’ third work with even more anticipation than previously.

FYI:

Some gruesome murders.

Scottish accenting to some dialogue and UK convention.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** 5 Stars

Friday, October 24, 2014

Correlation/ Mia Grace


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Young Adult/ Time Travel/ Paranormal

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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Author:

“Mia Grace lives in rural Vermont and works as a consumer advocate and educator in New Hampshire. When she’s not hiding away in her writer’s garret, she can be found enjoying her boisterous extended family, her menagerie of dogs, cats, and laying hens, and her perennial flower gardens.” 

To learn more about Ms. Grace please check out herwebsite.  

Description:

“When the past and the present collide…

Hailey Kent knows how she wants to spend the summer before her junior year in high school: hanging out at the pool with Jenna, her BFF; riding her new trail bike on Vermont’s country roads; and flirting with Jenna’s hot older brother, Cody.

Hailey’s plans are shattered when a post-graduation accident puts her brother into a coma. Feeling guilty for not stopping him from going out that night, she seeks solace in exploring an old house and its overgrown gardens.

A mysterious correlation of events propels her back in time to the Vietnam War era, where she realizes she can use her knowledge of one boy’s fate to save his life. But first, Hailey needs to convince him of her sanity.”

Appraisal:

Hailey Kent and Jenna Wells are pretty much typical teenaged best friends. Hailey is brooding at the moment because her sixteenth birthday happened to fall on her older brother David’s high school graduation day, so she is not the center of attention. Then a tragic car accident happens and her brother’s life hangs in the balance. The whole Kent family’s life is turned upside down. Hailey is dealing with depression and the pressures of an unknown future.

Jenna, whose brother was driving the car, tries to occupy Hailey’s mind with a distraction that has recently become an obsession of her own. Cleaning up around an old abandoned house that used to belong to her grandmother’s first love. Hailey is not thrilled with this project but goes along with her friend because she has nothing better to occupy her time. She finds herself surprisingly invested in the house’s history and the people who lived there.

The first part of the story is very slow moving and I had a hard time keeping interested in the story, which is mostly a set up for the second half of the book. I liked the characters, and the story is laid out well, they just didn’t draw me in. I have a problem investing myself in sad stories and all the themes in the first half of the book are sad. However, if you hang in there, the pay-off is in the second half of the story. The change is abrupt and it took a while to understand what was going on. Everything has changed, no one is the same as they were in the first half of the book.

It was interesting to see the interconnectedness of our lives and how we can affect the lives of others who are not even close to us. The ripple effect that we can and do cause with our actions and thoughts is a bit mind-boggling. I found it fascinating how Ms. Grace managed to weave this story into such a believable reality. This is a thought provoking book that I ended up enjoying a lot more than I thought I would in the beginning.

FYI:

I viewed this story as more of a series of paranormal events rather than a science fiction story. Perhaps that is just me, I prefer paranormal to sci-fi.

Format/Typo Issues:

I noticed no issues with editing or formatting.


Rating: **** Four Stars

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Negative's Tale / R. Leib


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Science Fiction

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
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Author:

Here’s what the author says about himself: I publish under the name R. Leib. (I am not Bart R. Leib. He is somebody completely different.) "The Negative's Tale" is my first novel.

I am currently working on a volume of short stories and another science fiction novel.

I am something of a dinosaur. Most of my 30 years in the computer industry was spent developing and supporting software for mainframe computers. (For those of you too young to know what that is, mainframe computers were large, expensive, and very complex forerunners of modern day servers and PCs.) After studying science (the real stuff), reading science fiction, and working in a technical field, it made sense for me to express my creativity in writing science fiction.
Description:

Set in a far future where close-to-light-speed travel permits spaceships to traverse the universe, the novel follows the life and adventures of Allon Wu whose “negative” psychic abilities enable him to enter the minds of other psychics and channel their powers.

Appraisal:

I don’t read much sci-fi nowadays (I was a big fan in my younger years), but I do sample a lot, always searching for a title that will appeal. The Negative’s Tale did fit that bill. I enjoyed the sample, and indeed the first part of the story immensely. I finished the book last night and I’ve been struggling with how to write the review ever since. So, this may be a little unconventional:

I think this novel is actually three stories compressed into one. It would work very well as a series in my opinion, but in combination, not so much. So, I’ll review each part.

The story opens with Allon Wu hanging out on a beach in a spacecraft that has multiple domes, each with a different simulated environment. We learn in flashback how Wu’s arm was disfigured—a well-written and exciting scene. Then we flash back to a ten-year-old Wu’s training as a “negative.” There were certain shades of the early episodes of TV’s Kung Fu, especially regarding the way the student, Wu, related to a wise, old professor. This was fascinating to me, and I was totally hooked on the story at this point. I think, had Wu then gone on to have a single adventure using his newly learned skills, I’d have been happy to read, “The End” and look for the next book in the series.

However, the story started to meander. It morphed into a whodunit where Wu had to chase down and discover the identity of a murderer. This all took place near a distant planet, on a vast spaceship, and frankly, it was heavy sledding. Wu would pick up clues, but never reveal what they were, merely say “Ah, I’m nearly ready to reveal the truth,” and move on to gather another clue. There were dozens of new characters introduced and everything became confused for this reader. Also, I hate having an author keep secrets—it makes me feel like I’m being talked down to.

Then the third part of story took place on the native planet of a race known as the Hydran—huge crab-like creatures with psychic abilities and strange mating and fighting rituals. Let me tell you, Wu needed all his wits to complete his mission on that crazy planet. I enjoyed this section, but it was rushed, and I thought the premise strong enough to support a significant expansion.

Allon Wu was a terrific character. His “negative” abilities were fascinating. The space opera aspects and time travel explanations woven throughout seemed technically valid to me and the science added to my enjoyment. I just didn’t think the story was focused enough, which is a shame.

If it were my writing, I’d hire an editor—especially to fix the point of view, which was all over the map and there were multiple occurrences where the author related scenes twice (same action but different perspective). Also, much of the story was told in flashback, or related as a story narrated in flashback whilst in a flashback—yikes!

Separating the stories would remove that complication by delivering three separate story arcs told in sequential time and anchored by Allon Wu.

Format/Typo Issues:

Too few to mention.


Rating: *** Three stars

#Free for your #Kindle, 10/23/2014

The author of each of these books has indicated their intent to schedule these books for a free day for the Kindle versions today on Amazon. Sometimes plans change or mistakes happen, so be sure to verify the price before hitting that "buy me" button.


No Perfect Secret by Jackie Weger




Two Birds (A Short Mystery) by Vicki Tyley



Author's interested in having their free book featured either here on a Thursday or a sister site on a Monday, visit this page for details.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Game Changer / Beth Orsoff


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Chick-Lit

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
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Author:

An entertainment attorney based in Los Angeles, Beth Orsoff writes humorous chick-lit with six previous books to her credit. She continues to deny (despite mounting evidence to the contrary) that her book Romantically Challenged is a a memoir.

For more, visit Ms Orsoff’s website.

Description:

“When it comes to relationships Samantha Haller has seen it all. As a top LA divorce attorney she knows love doesn’t last. On a rare night out at a Hollywood nightclub she isn’t looking for love, or even a relationship, but with the help of a spiked drink she may just let loose and have some fun for a change.

For sports agent extraordinaire Jake Jensen dating means sex, nothing more. That’s why his ‘relationships’ last, on average, two weeks. As long as the women go away quietly and don’t make a scene, he’s fine with that. Finding a new one to take the former’s place is never a problem for a handsome, generous, eligible bachelor.

They both want sex with no attachment—what could possibly go wrong? They could fall in love . . .”

Appraisal:

Budding relationships provide a treasure trove of possibility for books of all kinds, especially in humorous chick-lit. Miscommunication (or lack of communication) almost always plays some role, just like in real life. That Jake and Samantha both want the same thing, something negotiated thousands of times in only a few hours every Friday night in singles bars everywhere, adds to the humor. Of course, sometimes that real people, just like these characters, don’t always know what they want, doesn’t help. A fun story with great characters.

FYI:

Mild adult content and some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues


Rating: ***** Five Stars

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lamentation / Joe Clifford


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Crime Fiction / Thriller / Mystery

Approximate word count: 70-75,000

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

Author:

Joe Clifford is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books and managing editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive. He is the author of three books.

You can learn more about the author at www.joeclifford.com.

Description:

When Jay gets a phone call telling him his older brother Chris is in jail he’s not surprised because he’s a junkie. He’s been in and out of trouble since their parents died in a car accident years ago. Reluctantly Jay heads to the police station, but from then on what was slow, small town life is never the same again.

Chris’ business partner, Pete, has been found dead. Jay is confounded, because Chris can barely tell what time of day it is, never mind run a company. The local police think Chris is at fault, but there’s no evidence to say so and Jay gets his brother back on the streets. Again.

Chris tells Jay that Pete was killed because they found something they weren’t supposed to on a computer they were recycling. But Chris has been telling tall stories his whole life and Jay doesn’t believe him. Then Chris disappears and suddenly everyone seems to want to find him – among them a cop up from the city and the Lombardi’s, a local family that control everything from investments to politics. Jay begins to wonder if there isn’t something to Chris’ story after all…

Appraisal:

The phrase ‘slow burn’ is often used to describe a story that steadily unfolds, usually maintaining the same unremitting pace until the final word. With Lamentation this too is apt. To a point. Because here Clifford has lit a fuse which leads to a rather large bomb which, when it explodes, leaves no-one unscathed and in the process ramps up the tension considerably in the back quarter.

At the outset this seems like an ordinary enough tale. Small town boy who’s lost his family, has a troubled junkie brother, and is separated from Jenny, the woman he still loves and the mother of his son, because he doesn’t believe he’s good enough for her. Written in the first person through Jay’s eyes we understand fully the cul-de-sac he’s driven down.

But with Pete’s murder this seemingly dead end life gets flipped upside down. Jay, reluctantly, begins to investigate Pete’s death because he’s doing something he’s spent his life on – looking after his waster older brother. The plot grows in complexity as Jay’s understanding widens until he and the reader is faced with the whole dirty picture.

Clifford is a highly accomplished writer – the evidence is clear in his previous novels, Junkie Love and Wake The Undertaker. Lamentation is subtly different, but I find it hard to put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s because there is a large element of family involved. Secondly I like the fact that some of the questions the author poses, such as whether Jay’s parent’s death was an accident, aren’t fully answered at the conclusion. What had been a weight for Jay, he’s now able to cast off and properly live his life. And it’s these subtleties and extra layers that push the rating from four to five stars. If you don’t yet know Joe Clifford, you really should.

FYI:

Some swearing.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.


Rating: ***** Five Stars

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dark Witness / Rebecca Forster


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
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Author:

USA Today best selling author Rebecca Forster’s twenty-something books mostly fit within the broad mystery genre, some in the legal thriller subgenre and others harder to classify. Forster is a two-time winner in the Books and Pals Readers’ Choice Awards, with Before Her Eyes topping the mystery category in 2013 and Eyewitness (book 5 of the Witness Series) getting the nod from our readers in 2014.

For more, visit Forster’s website.

Description:

“As the edge of winter slices through Washington D.C., Josie Bates testifies before Congress about the Albanian blood feud that sent Hannah Sheraton and Billy Zuni fleeing for their lives while Archer reluctantly abandons a trail that has gone cold in his search for the teenagers.Determined to stay one step ahead of the authorities who want Billy back and a blood feud that will only be satisfied when he is dead, Hannah and Billy head north. There they will hunker down in the darkest corner of earth they can find and wait for the danger to pass. Though the journey is treacherous, they finally find themselves isolated, safe, and as far from Hermosa Beach as they can get. But their relief is short lived. When the perpetual winter dark turns to inky black, they realize they have taken refuge in hell. Now the fight in front of Hannah and Billy is not only for their lives, but their very souls.”

Appraisal:

Those who have read the previous books in the Witness Series knew when they finished Forgotten Witness (book 6 in the series) that there would have to be at least one more book. Forster had left two important characters, Hannah Sheridan (a character almost as important to the series as Josie Bates), and recurring character Billy Zuni in limbo, with what little changed through the course of book six making their situation more tenuous. (For those who haven’t read the prior books or may have forgotten, they were running from a man intent on killing Billy.) This installment picks up Hannah and Billy’s story where their situation gets even worse.

I’m reluctant to say anything specific about what happens because everything feels like it would be a spoiler. While the last book focused on Josie Bates, this is Hannah and Billy’s book with Josie and Archer taking secondary roles. Although the initial book in the series was clearly a legal thriller, as the series has progressed it has slid out of the legal subgenre and into the broader thriller or suspense category. If this book has a single scene in a courtroom, it is so minor that I’ve forgotten it. If you’ve read the series thus far, you’ll definitely want to pick up this one as Hannah and Billy flee from one dangerous situation, only to fall into another. What that is and how it resolves is quite a ride.

FYI:

This is the seventh of a series. Although I believe it could be read as a stand alone and the story still make sense, to get the full impact an understanding of what has come previously for these characters would be much better.

Format/Typo Issues:

The version I read was an advance reader copy. I’m unable to judge the final product in this area.


Rating: ***** Five Stars