Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: The Corpse Wore Stilettos by MJ O'Neill



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Woman Sleuth

Description:

“Since Kat Waters’s father took a trip to the slammer on what she’s sure are trumped-up racketeering charges, life’s been tough. All their assets are frozen, and she’s down to the last few pairs of Jimmy Choos she can swap for rent. To keep her family out of the homeless shelter, the former socialite took a job at the local morgue—a job she’s about to lose when the body of a murder victim goes missing on her watch.

While Kat’s processing the latest victim in the prostitute serial killings, ex-Special Forces soldier Burns McPhee strolls in with an air of confidence, expecting access to the Jane Doe. While Burns tries to flirt his way into examining the latest victim, whom he thinks is connected to the death of his best friend, someone else steals the body right out from under them.

Dodging questions from the cops and kidnapping attempts from a body-snatching psycho, Kat and Burns forge a deal. He’ll clear her name and keep her safe if she gets him information on her peculiar coworkers, one of whom he’s certain is involved with the body heist. But digging up secrets can lead to a lower life expectancy. The unlikely team will need all their talents not to end up as the morgue’s next clients while they hunt for a murderer, the missing corpse, and a pair of diamond-studded stilettos.”

Author:

MJ O'Neill: “As the owner of a boutique chocolate factory in Atlanta, MJ O'Neill loves to write lighthearted, romantic mysteries with a sweet twist. She has a degree in business communications from North Carolina State University. When she's not spinning a sweet yarn or creating delicious confections, she spends time with her husband, their kids, a hyperactive cocker spaniel named Devo (after the band), a princess tabby cat named Twilight (before the book stole her name) and a collection of stray fish. The whole gang can be found tooling around the back roads of the South in their RV where MJ uses the downtime to hatch her next sweet plot.”

Appraisal:

Katherine Waters is a socialite who had a lucrative career and a fiancé in Boston until her father was sent to prison for racketeering. Her fiancé dumps her and she leaves her job to move back to St. Louis to help her mom and grandmother since all of their finances have been frozen. They also had to leave their elegant family home. Grandma’s friend Claude, helps them find a small house they can rent, he also helps Kat find employment at a hospital morgue utilizing her minor in biology.

Things go amok for Kat when a body is stolen from the morgue one evening while covering for a fellow employee. The cast is full of oddball characters that range to fellow employees, doctors, hospital security, and the Russian mob. Kat takes it upon herself to try to recover the stolen body, or at least find out what happened to her since the detectives don’t seem to appreciate the details of the crime she gives them. The over-the-top storyline is humorous as it twists into areas I would have never expected. While the story arc of the corpse is resolved there is a larger arc that concerns Kat’s father’s incarceration. And who exactly is Claude? And will Kat ever give Burns McPhee a chance to become more than a friend? And what does Simon think Kat has that belongs to him? Dun, dum, dunnnnnn…

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Friday, July 12, 2019

Review: The Gravedigger by Rath Dalton



Genre: Coming of Age/Horror/Short Story

Description:

“Dirk Armen Bohler, a German boy growing up in a French-Canadian neighborhood, makes his way through youth during the depression years. Squeezed between poverty and a failed father figure, he struggles to find his place.”

Author:

Whether the author is using a pen name or actual name, details about him (or could Rath be a her, I’m not sure) are skimpy.

Appraisal:

Twelve year-old Dirk Armen Bohler goes by Armen or Armie. Why he doesn’t go by his first name is at the heart of this story. It has a touch of horror having to do with the Gravedigger the title refers to, but at its heart it is a coming of age story set during the 1940s as the country was coming out of the depression and the second world war was beginning. Although fiction, the story is largely based on the true story of the author’s father-in-law.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 11-12,000 words

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Review: Rejections from a Literary Agent: Discouraging Writers, One Bad Query at a Time by G. Randy Kasten



Genre: Humor

Description:

“Satirical humor books have built success on very serious topics — Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (mental illness), Shi*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern (awkward relations) and Calypso by David Sedaris (alcoholism, suicide) — but no one has yet written anything funny about the arduous process of trying to snag a literary agent.

Rejections from a Literary Agent: Discouraging Writers, One Bad Query at a Time includes the fictional Ribbons Literary Agency website, twenty-three invented query letters, sample pages from hopeful authors and blunt responses from senior agent Marcie Ribbons.

Responding to queries for multiple genres and occasional bad querying etiquette, Ms. Ribbons shares her editorial wisdom with the impatience of a Judge Judy. Wounded aspirants sometimes write back after rejection and a story arc plays out.”

Author:

G. Randy Kasten is a former child actor, turned attorney. He’s also a wordsmith in multiple ways, writing fiction, non-fiction, songs, and plays. A long-time resident of the East Bay near San Francisco, Kasten relocated a few years ago to Northwestern Washington. For more, visit his website.

Appraisal:

As the book’s description explains, this book is made up of a series of three things repeated over and over. First an author’s query to a fictional literary agency, then a sample of the book the author has written (or maybe is proposing to finish writing), and last the literary agent’s rejection of the proposal. Once I thought the agency was going to agree to represent the author, forgetting the first word in the book’s title is “Rejections” so … spoiler alert … that can’t happen.

My feelings about this book are conflicted in some ways. The author says he’s received a lot of rejections from agents over the years and, possibly needless to say, as far as I can tell no agent was responsible for the publishing of this book. An agent might be able to see the humor here. An author, published or not, or anyone who has some experience with or even just basic knowledge about the publishing business and the struggles an author goes through to get published the traditional way will definitely be chuckling as they read this. A typical reader might get the humor, even if it didn’t speak to them on the same level as it would to a wannabe author. But they might not.

As someone who claims not to be a writer, but who does write a lot of reviews for a book review blog, I found myself sympathizing with what is in essence the antagonist in this book, the agent. That was a strange feeling since my feelings about agents in the publishing process are mixed. But having rules for submission to be considered for a potential review myself, when the agent rejected a submission because the author didn’t follow the submission instructions it was all I could do to resist yelling “YOU GO GIRL” at the top of my lungs.

I also found myself cringing at typos and grammatical issues that I’d normally have flagged as issues, then realizing that, for example, when the fictional author refers to a small glass container as a vile it was an intentional mistake, which becomes apparent when the agent mentions it in her rejection. That I had a vial reaction (sorry, couldn’t resist) was maybe even what that author (the actual, non-fictional one) wanted.

If you’re looking for a light, humorous read and the description of this book draws you in, you’re probably the perfect reader for it. It’s a fun read for those who fit the target audience.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

Lots of typos and grammatical issues, but as mentioned in the appraisal, the vast majority of them clearly are or easily could be on purpose.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Monday, July 8, 2019

Reprise Review: Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix



Genre: Paranormal Romance

Description:

Badly scarred from emotional wounds that have never healed, Owen Campbell has become a mysterious recluse. Determined not to let anyone close enough to hurt him again, he lives in a prison of his own making. Sarah Jane Browning is the girl across the Hollow, the girl next door. When she breaks the rules and trespasses onto his land, Owen’s willpower is shaken. When tragedy strikes, both are forced to reevaluate their circumstances. Owen’s secrets could tear them apart forever.

Author:

T.L. Haddix was born in Hazard, Kentucky, a small town in the heart of Appalachia country. She states, "Growing up, I wanted to be everything - astronaut, police officer, doctor, teacher, reporter, psychologist - there was no clear choice for me. I wanted to do it all. Becoming a writer has allowed me to do just that, because I can live vicariously through my characters." She now lives in southern Indiana with her husband and three cat-children. Firefly Hollow is the first of a new romance series. T.L. Haddix is the author of the Shadows/Leroy Collection, a series of standalone romantic suspense novels.

You can join her on her Facebook page or check out Ms. Haddix’s website.

Appraisal:

This story opens with a scene from Sarah’s past where we are given a peek at Sarah’s family and what life was like for them in the heart of the Appalachian country in the late 1950s and 60s. The characters are well developed and endearing. It didn’t take long for me to enjoy their company and feel their pains. The dialogue was authentic and humorous at times, especially the conversations between Sarah and her mother Eliza. The author’s descriptive prose was stellar; you can tell this area of the country holds a special place in the author’s heart. I loved the paranormal twist that the author gave Owen; it truly made the suspension of belief easy to accept and drew me in to the old Appalachian folk tales. Owen’s journey to his own acceptance is what makes this story exceptional. I loved everything about his character.

There are many twists in the plot and when a devastating tragedy strikes Sarah’s family while Owen is away dealing with his uncles’ misfortune, things get complicated. I began to wonder if Sarah would ever be given the chance to know Owen’s secrets or if Owen would have enough faith in himself to trust Sarah with them. I had completely forgotten I was reading a romance and one of the elements of a romance is a Happily Ever After.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This book contains adult language and sexual situations that may be offensive to some.

Added for Reprise Review: Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix was a nominee in the Romance category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran January 15, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

I received and read a promotional copy prior to all edits being done, therefore I cannot judge in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words

Friday, July 5, 2019

Review: Lost in Thought by Karson Lee




Genre: Memoir

Description:

“What would you do if you knew a child who was being abused? If that child was a member of your family? Would you call the authorities and have the child taken away or would you turn a blind eye?

These are the kind of questions that Lost In Thought provokes. The author, who lived through the atrocities mentioned in this book, paints a vivid, if disturbing, image of child abuse and how it affects the psyche as one grows older. What begins as abuse leads quickly to suicidal thoughts and loss of control.

Lost In Thought is the unbelievable true story of a child who was in this predicament. His mother, who was hooked on prescription pills, sexually abused him for years and convinced him that nothing was out of the ordinary. Family members knew of the horrifying situation, yet did nothing to stop it. He distanced himself from his family as he grew older only to become more of an outcast.

This is the powerful true story of a man who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome on the Autism Spectrum in his mid-twenties, overcame adversity, and took back control of his life before it was too late.”

Author:

“Karson Lee was born in North Carolina. He is the survivor of child abuse and has since worked with abused children. He advocates to end child abuse. He currently lives with his wife, foster child, and three fur babies. They are currently in the process of fostering/adopting their first child.”
Karson can be found on his Facebook page.

Appraisal:

I decided to give this a read because I’ve been monitoring some sexual assault scandals that have unfolded recently, mainly involved with religious institutions, and thought this might give me a valuable perspective from the eyes of the abused. It did that. But it also got me thinking about divorced families and the games parents all too often pull, using the kids as pawns in their power plays. It had me pondering relationships within families and drove home how lucky I am to have the close relationship with my siblings that I do.

Those who might be triggered by any number of things that could go on within a dysfunctional family might want to steer clear of this book. For others looking for a different perspective, this can provide it.

The author says at one point in the book that “My mind jumps from one thing to another, seemingly unrelated thing, then back to another. I struggle to follow a constant, steady train of thought. I feel like I have written this memoir the exact same way. I start one idea, go off on a tangent, and end on something completely unrelated.” That’s true, to a degree, but in some ways it felt like it put me in his mind even more when that happened.

In the end, there are also some positive things in the author’s story and some lessons about what the human spirit can endure and adapt to in order to get yourself to a better place. In that regard, the story was inspiring.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A small amount of adult language and minor sexual content.

Format/Typo Issues:

The number of proofing issues I spotted went right up to the point where I would consider knocking a star or two off the rating, but didn’t quite go over. The errors were generally minor, either a missing word in a sentence, the wrong word (in instead of on, vise instead of vice for a couple examples) or minor grammar issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Review: Prayer Walk by Melissa Bowersock



Genre: Paranormal/Ghosts/Cozy Mystery/Native American

Description:

Based in sprawling Los Angeles, medium Sam Firecloud and his partner, Lacey Fitzpatrick, never seem to run out of hauntings to investigate and resolve, but when they get two separate calls from two frantic customers, they realize they’re getting stretched pretty thin. How are they going to handle two cases at once? Daniel, Sam’s fifteen-year-old son, has a solution, but they quickly discover that solution could lead to serious injury—or worse—for the supernaturally talented boy.”

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 has a tattoo on the inside of her left wrist that says IMAGINE. In her next life, she plans to be an astronaut. 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.”

Learn more about Ms. Bowersock and her other books on her website or on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Prayer Walk caught me off guard delving into religion and the fear people have about the beliefs of others. It’s short, concise, and handled respectfully. It’s incredulous to see similarities in belief systems that so many others do not recognize. Ms. Bowersock and Sam Firecloud turn this presentation of religions on its head.

Lacey Fitzpatrick and Daniel encounter an angry ghost at a car dealership. The owner is frantic, all of his employees are being physically attacked and are refusing to go back to work. The ghost is an employee that was murdered there late one night. The killer is a mystery, it seems as if it was a random attack. Daniel is way out of his league as the ghost possesses him, for a short time, to try to communicate with him. Sam Firecloud is keeping a close, but worried eye on him as Daniel continues to work the case. Lacey delves into the lives of the people related to or involved with the ghost to figure out who this stranger is and why he chose to kill that night. Ms. Bowersock knows how to weave a tangled web. This part of the story has far reaching consequences. Lacey still carries a lot of clout with the LAPD.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries with a dash of paranormal you need to read this series. They are novella length. The author doesn’t mince words with fillers. You get a story packed with intrigue, emotion, characters with integrity who continue to grow, and a powerful sense of wonder. What more could you ask for?

Buy now from:         Amazon US          Amazon UK

FYI:

Prayer Walk is book 20 in Melissa Bowersock’s, A LACEY FITZPATRICK and SAM FIRECLOUD MYSYTERY SERIES. This series does not need to be read in order. However, you may miss some character development, and why would a conscientious reader want to do that?

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Monday, July 1, 2019

Reprise Review: The Succubus Gift (The Telepathic Clans Saga, Book 1) by BR Kingsolver



Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Description:

Brenna Morgan’s journey is more complicated than most, orphaned at the young age of eight she has learned to hide her gift of telepathy. After a chance meeting with another telepath she finds a few extended family members and learns her life will never be the same. In a world with a hidden telepathic subculture, Brenna learns the history of the Clan and how to control her powers. This is a fresh take on the succubus myth in a non-magical world.

Author:

BR Kingsolver lives in Baltimore with a very significant other, two cats, two Basset Hounds and loves to travel. She has a bachelor’s degree in entomology, a master’s degree in management and has worked at various odd jobs. This is her debut novel. Learn more about BR Kingsolver at her website.

Appraisal:

This is a complex and organized urban fantasy where the subculture of the Clan is based in telepathy rather than demonology or magic, although the law of physics are bent. The Succubus Gift adds a unique and exciting twist to the old myths. Ms. Kingsolver has built an elaborate system of Gifts that are basically a combination of Talents that can be thought of as both distinct and interacting abilities. No one telepath has ever been recorded, in their history, having all twenty-five Gifts until the Clan finds Brenna. The first half of the story deals with her inner conflicts upon learning what she is and how she fits into this new world. Being a highly-educated and moral young woman her life is turned upside down. This is a coming of age story for a reluctant succubus whose strength is incalculable because of her many Gifts and Talents.

There are many characters and all are well drawn, their conversations were both witty and honest. One of my favorites was Rebecca, an oversexed protector (but not a succubus), who became fast friends with Brenna. I loved the way they related and interacted with each other. Then there was Collin, the playboy, who Brenna was instantly drawn to but refuses to have a relationship with. (What? I know, right? She’s a succubus for heavens sake!) This adds an interesting twist though that enhances their conversations and adds a bit of humor I thoroughly enjoyed.

The story is set in a realistic, complex world, just like our own, which helped suspend my disbelief. The plot turns dark when succubae all over the world start disappearing and turning up dead. When Grandfather’s succubus is kidnapped the Clan gets involved. The action takes off as a sting is employed and put into operation. Brenna happens to have the perfect Talent, her mother taught her at a young age, to assist in the sting. However to become the bait she must unleash her inner succubus which will change her life yet again forever. This is an exciting new series to take a chance on; Brenna’s journey is unlike anything I have read before.   

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This book contains adult language and sexual situations that may be offensive to some.

Added for Reprise Review: The Succubus Gift by BR Kingsolver was a nominee in the Speculative Fiction category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran February 8, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant errors.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Friday, June 28, 2019

Review: Jack Gilmour: Wish Lawyer by Ed Ryder



Description:

As Las Vegas' first and only demonic contract lawyer, Jack Gilmour protects his clients from deals too good to be true.

An urgent case of misplaced lust sends Jack on a collision course with Lucia Oredis, a dangerous and seductive demon from his past. To cancel the contract and save his client, Lucia demands that Jack investigates a conspiracy in the corridors of demonic power.

As the clock ticks down, Jack gets in way over his head with the human and demonic underworlds in a battle for dominion over the city. With only his wits and a gambling wizard for help, can Jack save the day and both worlds?”

Author:

Ed Ryder is a research scientist by day and author by night.

When not spending time working or writing, Ed is either horse riding, playing video games, or watching science fiction movies and TV shows.

His favourite author is Clive Barker, and he loves pizza.”


Appraisal:

Jack Gilmour Wish Lawyer, is suitably set in Las Vegas where people get caught up in the glitz and glamour of a freewheeling lifestyle. He is surrounded by beautiful people who may not be as they outwardly seem. Eddie Malfitano, who owns a couple of casinos a few blocks off downtown, is visibly upset when he drags his nephew, Benny, into Jack’s office. Benny has just finished college and is visiting his uncle Eddie for the summer to get a taste of the business. Benny has been struck with a major case of lust at one of the downtown casinos, when all of a sudden there is a man that says he can fix Benny up with this sultry beauty and all he has to do is sign on the dotted line. So, Benny does.

At first Jack assumes Benny signed a karmic contract which is a simple matter. In reality Benny signed a soul contract, which is a whole different story. Did you know that demons have Demonic Precepts to live by? Well they do, and Jack is an expert in demonic law. As it says in the description, this case sends Jack on a collision course with Lucia Oredis, a dangerous and seductive demon from Jack’s past. Lucia will cancel Benny’s contract if Jack investigates a conspiracy in the halls of demonic powers in the underworld.

There are layers upon layers as the plot twists and turns, in the streets of Las Vegas as well as in the underworld. The characters are multi-dimensional, some are twisted and pure evil, others not-so-much. The dialogue is intelligent, conscientious, and at times humorous. The descriptive prose at the beginning is beautiful and sets you right there with Jack. The noir twists are totally enjoyable, especially when we meet Gloria, Jack’s secretary. She is a gloriously strong woman who got satisfaction in the end, and I would like to see more of her.

If you need a break from the routine urban fantasy, take a walk on the wild side of Las Vegas with Jack Gilmour: Wish Lawyer for a unique and witty roller-coaster ride.

Buy now from:            Amazon US          Amazon UK


FYI:

Some adult language. Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Review: An Object of Desire by Jenny Twist



Genre: Short Story/Thriller

Description:

“Hannah and Rea, on holiday in Tangiers are disturbed to discover that two sinister looking characters are following them. Then they meet the mysterious Toby who is himself following the stalkers. He wants to know why the men are interested in the girls. But the girls have no idea. They are not too worried, since they are moving on to Chefchouen. He says he will take them himself, secretly.

But who is Toby? What does he do? Is he a policeman? A spy? A treasure hunter?

All seems well until one of the girls disappears.”

Author:

A native of the UK, Jenny Twist is the author of several books and short stories. She lives with her husband in Spain.

Appraisal:

Two young ladies, Hannah and Rea, are on a vacation in Tangiers. They’re on a shopping trip at the local bazaar, a few guys being chased by the police run through, and they head back to the hotel in search of a gin and tonic. Little do they realize that inconsequential shopping trip has set them up for more than they bargained for. What that was is a mystery, to the reader and to Hannah and Rea. The story is short, intense, and just like Hannah and Rea, I spent the whole time trying to figure out what the heck was going on and why. I guess that’s why it is called a mystery.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 12-13,000 words

Monday, June 24, 2019

Reprise Review: The Liar's Guide to South America by Michael Delwiche


Genre: Travel/Humor

Description:

Andrew Mozart is twenty years old, naïve, shy, financially self-sufficient (thanks to a life insurance policy that paid out when his father died) and in love with Sarah, a work colleague. When Sarah leaves for a trip to South America before Andrew has declared his love, he elects to follow her. The book recounts his journey.

Author:

Michael Delwiche is a screenwriter living in the UK. The Liar’s Guide to South America is his first novel. He has a second novel (Wait Until The Robots) due out later this year.

Appraisal:

After Sarah has left on her trip, Andrew checks her computer terminal at work and finds her email program still open. He peeks at her inbox and her sent folder and finds out where she is staying. Then he flies to Brazil to try and meet her.

Such a simple premise, but what a great read.

I got through the story in three sittings—never wanted to put it down. Andrew’s naive attempts at backpacking and staying in hostels and trying to fit in among others far more travel savvy than himself makes for a fun journey. His trip was built on a deception, and the longer he continues to track Sarah, the more wrapped up he becomes in the web of lies he has to spin.

His travel decisions are based on what he believes he is understanding from Sarah’s emails (which he continues to look at as he tries to track her down) and as we know, emails don’t always mean what they appear to say. His lack of even a modicum of travel-wisdom (this is his first time away from home) has him making dumb decisions that lead him into one problem after another. But no matter how unlikely the characters he meets and the situations he gets himself into, it never seemed far-fetched to me, quite the opposite. At twenty, I’d probably have done much the same — a scary thought!

Some sections of the book are laugh-out-loud funny, and no matter that he’s a cheat and a liar, I defy you to not like Andrew—I found myself rooting for him throughout.

This gem of a story is what self-publishing is all about. It’s well written, well structured, clever, and wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of being picked up by a mainstream publisher.

I recommend you read it and see how Andrew sets off to South America to find Sarah, and, in the end, finds himself.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

English Spelling.

Added for Reprise Review: The Liar's Guide to South America by Michael Delwiche was a nominee in the Humor and Satire category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran September 26, 2012

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 60,000-65,000 words