Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review: The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by Tim Tate and Brad Johnson



Genre: Non-Fiction

Description:

“At 12.16am on Wednesday, June 5, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot and mortally wounded in the kitchen service pantry of the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. He had just won the California Primary, an important victory in his quest for nomination as the Democratic Party’s candidate in the US Presidential election late that year. A little over 24 hours later, he was pronounced dead.

A 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, was captured in the pantry with a smoking gun in his hand. Eyewitnesses had seen him step out in front of Kennedy and begin shooting with a small calibre revolver. He fired all eight bullets in its chamber. In April 1969, Sirhan was convicted of Robert Kennedy’s murder and the wounding of five others. He was sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment. He has been in prison – often in solitary confinement – ever since. Fifteen applications for parole have been rejected.

That is the official history of the murder of Robert F. Kennedy. Now, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination, award-winning investigative journalists Tim Tate and Brad Johnson uncover the true story.

This book is the result of more than 25 years’ painstaking forensic work. The authors have scrutinised more than 100,000 official documents, located previously unknown recordings, and conducted original new interviews with key figures in the case.

They show that Sirhan could not have fired the fatal bullets, reveal detailed evidence of a murderous conspiracy involving organised crime, and disclose CIA documents detailing successful experiments to create a hypno-programmed political assassin. The book also unmasks the likely identity of one of the most enduring mysteries in the case – the infamous ‘Girl in the Polka Dot Dress’.”

Author:

Tim Tate is a British documentary film-maker and the author of numerous non-fiction books.

Brad Johnson is an award-winning writer, editor, producer and television news anchor.

Appraisal:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Was it going be a big conspiracy theory? Was what it said going to seem credible? For the tl;dr crowd, the answers to those questions are no and yes.

The somewhat more detailed explanation is that the book does a good job of explaining not only the official story and how it came to be, but also pointing out where that story has issues. Unlike a conspiracy theory, they don’t point fingers and spin yarns with conclusions about who did what and why, instead just laying out the facts and clues, leaving it to the reader to draw their own conclusion. I certainly found the evidence they presented to be disconcerting. I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing misses.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Monday, November 19, 2018

Reprise Review: Brittle Shadows by Vicki Tyley



Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Description:

Jemma Dalton travels to Melbourne to tidy up the affairs of her sister, an apparent suicide brought on by the suicide of her fiancĂ© two months prior. Soon Jemma begins to suspect things aren’t as they seem. How was her sister able to support her better than average lifestyle and accumulate over $1,000,000 in stock on a personal assistant’s salary? Were these really suicides?

Author:

With her first novel, the mystery thriller Thin Blood, Vicki Tyley was one of two independent authors with a book on Amazon’s list of the top 100 selling Kindle books of 2010. Her 2nd book, also released in 2010 is Sleight Malice. Although a native of New Zealand, Tyley and her husband have lived in Australia since the early 80s.

To learn more about Ms. Tyley please visit her website.

Appraisal:

Tyley is a master at weaving a complex, multilayered plot. The many characters Jemma meets starting with the manager of her sister’s apartment and the police detective who assists her, continuing to her sister’s friends and co-workers, all have unclear alliances and murky agendas. Everyone is a possible ally or a potential foe. The more Jemma uncovers about her sister and the other characters the cloudier the picture gets. Somehow Tyley managed to keep me guessing and second guessing what really happened right up until the end.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Ms Tyley is an Australian resident and the book takes place in Australia. This means you’ll see an occasional Aussie-ism. There is also some word usage that may be unfamiliar to US readers as well as Australian/UK spelling.

Format/Typo Issues:

Although the version I reviewed was a pre-release copy it had been formatted for the Kindle and had no significant formatting or typo issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: Gangster Walk by Melissa Bowersock



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Paranormal/Ghosts

Description:

“Technical whiz kid Cameron Gregory is one of the richest men in America, but even all his millions can’t relieve him of a menacing ghost. Only medium Sam Firecloud and his partner, Lacey Fitzpatrick, can do that. Hosted in Gregory’s luxurious Hudson Valley mansion, the paranormal investigators expect this job to be a piece of cake, but no one expects their research to lead them into the mysterious disappearance of a mobster kingpin from almost a hundred years ago.”

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:

Sam and Lacey are not strangers to staying in luxurious places. For example they stayed in an Irish castle in a prior book. However, staying in an American mansion causes a boat load of introspection for Lacey. Sam seems to take all things in stride, even dealing with a multi-millionaire who is used to getting his own way. I have to say, I thought the way Sam stands up to Cameron Gregory when he challenges Sam on a decision he made while in Mr. Gregory’s employ was damn sexy.

The history of the mansion’s previous owners is captivating. The mystery of the mob kingpin’s disappearance, in particular, is easy to fall into and speculations abound. But to get to the bottom of the mystery, Sam needs facts. And that is Lacey’s job, to tease out facts from the “what ifs.” The secondary characters are well developed and realistic. The dialogue is strained at times, which lends to its believability. The descriptive prose telling us about the mansion grounds and the surrounding area paints a beautiful picture.

Gangster Walk is another intelligent cozy mystery, with a touch of paranormal, to add to this series that is growing at an amazing rate. I love the way Sam and Lacey have meshed their personal and professional lives together. I enjoy visiting with them and peeking in on their lives. Keep the stories coming, Ms. Bowersock.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Gangster Walk is book fourteen in Melissa Bowersock’s A LACEY FITZPATRICK and SAM FIRECLOUD MYSYTERY SERIES.

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on a pre-release beta copy and I cannot comment on the completed product.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Review: The Unstoppables: Food Police by Demetrius Sherman



Genre: Satire

Description:

“When the government bans foods people crave, modern Chicago becomes roaring, blasting 1920's Chicago. Speakeasies appear and gangsters war to become king. And to battle the most dangerous gangster of them all, a group of men assemble: The Unstoppables.”

Author:

In addition to this book, Demetrius Sherman is the author of three other novels, all appear to be thrillers although at least one includes vampires.

Appraisal:

I suspect a team of editors would have a lot of suggestions regarding this book. They’d tighten up some of the prose, possibly suggest that a few places were telling when maybe they should be showing instead. One of that team might also express an opinion that a few spots in the story were possibly expecting the reader to suspend disbelief a little too much although some might feel given the premise of the story and the genre that this wasn’t an issue. I’m sure a proofreader would spill a non-trivial amount of red ink for a book of this size.

The premise, that unhealthy food, those that are high in fat or sugar or other tasty ingredients like that, have been outlawed, is a good one. The underlying story, imagining what might happen if this law were to be passed in current times, satirizes the days of Chicago bootleggers during prohibition. It has potential. Unfortunately, it’s lack of polish means it fell well short of that potential.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

Serious proofreading issues.

Rating: ** Two Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Monday, November 12, 2018

Reprise Review: Her Fake Romance by Donna Fasano



Genre: Romance

Description:

Julia Jones is a single parent trying to hide her heart from rejection; she won’t let it happen again. She has become a workaholic to protect herself; and has a successful catering business she runs with her friend and fellow foodie, Charlotte. When Julia’s fourteen year old daughter challenges her to ‘get a life’, she and Ryan Shane concoct a deal for a fake romance.

Ryan Shane is a divorce lawyer who sees marriages fall apart everyday and has no intention of ever getting involved in a relationship. He has a problem though; he is being pursued by his mentor’s beautiful gold digging daughter who is looking for husband number four. With Julia’s help he hopes to avert her advances.

Author:

Donna Fasano, also known as Donna Clayton, has written over thirty published novels with sales in excess of 3.6 million copies. Many of these novels have gone out-of-print with the rights reverting to Fasano. She is giving them a facelift and republishing them for your favorite eReader.

Donna Fasano is a three time winner of the HOLT Medallion, a CataRomance Reviewers Choice Award winner for Best Single Title, a Desert Rose Golden Quill Award finalist, and a Golden Heart finalist. Her books have been published in nearly two dozen languages.

Fasano has two grown sons and lives with her husband on the eastern seaboard of the United States. For more, visit her blog.

Appraisal:

This author always has a wonderful way to bring her characters together. This one was HOT, and the sexual tension starts at the very beginning and never lets up. She offers the perfect balance of narrative, description and dialogue in this character driven story. I love the way she allows us into Julia and Ryan’s thoughts, both trying to protect their hearts for different reasons. 

Cherry, the gold digger, and Kelly, Julia's fourteen-year-old daughter, provide the perfect amount of conflict that brings Ryan and Julia together. The fully fleshed out characters are realistic, intelligent, and their story is heartwarming. I have read several of Fasano's books and this is my favorite so far, I could not put the book down. The author added just the right amount of heat to keep me reading, and the mother daughter scenes were very touching. I applaud this author’s insight into human nature and sensibilities.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK  

FYI:

Steamy and adult situations, but no explicit sex.

Added for Reprise Review: Her Fake Romance by Donna Fasano was the winner in the Romance category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran August 27, 2012

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant errors.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Friday, November 9, 2018

Review: The Cheeky Coroner by Barbara Silkstone



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Historical/Humor/Young Adult

Description:

“There’s a new Royal Coroner at Buckingham Palace, and he foolishly fancies Florence Nightingale. As Poppy Throckmorten chronicles her mentor’s attempts to sell the rare emerald given her by Queen Victoria, another mysterious death is attributed to the jewel. Florence and Poppy must find the murderer before more victims fall prey to the glittering green stone.”

Author:

Barbara Silkstone “is the best-selling author of both Regency Pride and Prejudice variations, including the popular the Mister Darcy Series of Comedic Mysteries, and Pride and Prejudice contemporary variations. All her books are light comedies based on Jane Austen's timeless tales of love denied and love discovered. ‘Feel good’ tales to warm your heart.

She is also the author of the Wendy Darlin Comedy Mystery series. Five coffee-snorting tales that combine cozy with outrageous adventures.”

Please check out Ms. Silkstone’s website, Second Act CafĂ©, or follow heron Facebook.

Appraisal:

This series has been fun and educational, as long as you didn’t know Queen Victoria’s history, which I didn’t. Ms. Silkstone’s facts at the end of the stories interested me. She took liberties and inspirations with her other characters. Also as I understand this was always meant to be a trilogy. So, unless Poppy Throckmorten refuses to leave the author alone, this is the end of the series.

Florence Nightingale, Poppy, and Mrs. Throckmorten are all back at Buckingham Palace to witness a renowned psychic from Russia, Madame Tchotchke, to pronounce whether the Averoff emerald is cursed or not. The emerald is supposed to fund Florence’s dream for Nightingale School for Lady Nurses in England. Dr. Carbuncle started a rumor that the emerald is cursed to cover his guilt over his wife’s death in Athens, Greece. This nasty rumor has spooked potential purchasers of the emerald.

There is a new coroner at the palace that keeps making passes at Florence, who could care less. Especially since she is hard at work trying to solve the latest death inside the palace. Florence feels like the coroner has misruled the death. Tension near the conclusion of this book is heightened beyond any of the other stories in the series. I was sitting on the edge of my seat. Ms. Silkstone packs a lot in this novella. Not a word is wasted. And I was left with a smile on my face and a happy heart. Well done, Ms. Silkstone! I generally don’t go for historical fiction, however, I am pleased with how this series is written. Each character is well rounded and true to themselves. Plus it was all just downright fun and entertaining. 

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

The Cheeky Coroner is book 3 in Ms. Silkstone’s Florence Nightingale Comedy Mystery series and is novella length. Following book 1, The Giggling Corpse and book 2, The Killer Corset.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reprise Review: Our Summer of Discontent by S.L. Baum



Genre: YA/Paranormal

Description:

“Summer. A time for travel, relaxation, and above all - fun. But for Charity, her family, and her friends, this summer holds more in store than any of them anticipate.

While Charity learns to harness her newfound powers, others around her discover their own surprising abilities. And a vacation to New York becomes a catalyst that has their paths crossing with the unexpected, yet again.

Emotions run high as life-altering games taunt and test them all. Who will win and who will lose, during their Summer of Discontent?”

Author:

A former high school math teacher, S.L. Baum now works as a substitute elementary school teacher, chauffer for her kids, and novelist. She lives with her family in the Southwestern United States. This book is the fourth in Baum’s The Immortal Ones series. For more, visit Baum’s website.

Appraisal:

Since getting my Kindle, I’ve read a lot of YA books and this series is one of my favorites. One of the main reasons is the main character, Charity. As an “immortal one,” Charity stopped aging at a point where she appears to be in her late teens. While she’s much older and has experienced much more in life than an average teen, Charity has to maintain the illusion of being the age she appears. This tension, between the older, more mature woman inside, and how Charity has to appear to most of the world, is an uncommon twist that gives her character more complexity than the average teen. I think it also makes Charity more likeable because she shows all the positive attributes of someone of her physical age, without many of the faults someone of that age might have. Baum continues to put Charity and her cohorts in more and more difficult situations, and I continue to care and root for her.

One thing that is different in this volume is the use of several different point-of-view characters, seven if my count is correct. This could be confusing for some people, although Baum attempts to minimize the confusion with an explanation in a note to readers at the beginning, maintaining a consistent point-of-view character within individual chapters, and identifying who that character will be as part of the chapter heading. Some readers will love this (the disparate points of view add to how the reader views and interprets what is happening), while others may struggle keeping track in spite of the contextual cues provided.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This is the fourth book in the series. I would advise reading the first two books in the series, A Chance for Charity and My Link in Time. The third book, Of Fire and Brimstone, is not needed to understand the back-story of the characters featured in this volume, but may be needed for understanding in future books in the series.

Added for Reprise Review: Our Summer of Discontent by S.L. Baum was a nominee in the Young Adult category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran September 6, 2012

Format/Typo Issues:

I reviewed based on a pre-release beta copy and am unable to comment in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Monday, November 5, 2018

Review: Beg for Mercy by Keith Nixon



Genre: Thriller/Noir/Police Procedural

Description:

“Fifteen years ago Duncan Usher was sent to prison for killing his wife, Valerie. Young Detective Solomon Gray was first at the scene. His biggest case yet.
But Duncan Usher didn't kill Valerie. While someone was strangling Val, Usher had another man's blood on his hands. Usher took the fall for Val's death, but now he's out. Released on a technicality. He's held a grudge all this time, and he won't stop until he gets revenge on the dirty cop who framed him. Usher sets his sights on DS Solomon Gray.

And he has no qualms about using Gray's son, Tom, as a pawn to get what he wants.

Beg for Mercy is the third book in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray.”

Author:

During the day Keith Nixon is employed in a “senior sales role” by a high-tech company in the UK. But when he gets home you’ll find him working on this next book in one of two unrelated genres, either hard-boiled crime fiction or historical fiction.

Appraisal:

If you’ve read the two prior books in this series you’ll be familiar with not only Solomon Gray, the series protagonist, but also his coworkers in the local police department, plus Frank McGavin, the local crime boss. While he got a brief mention previously, it wasn’t obvious that McGavin essentially took over for Duncan Usher, who was convicted of murder in Solomon’s first big case. When Usher is unexpectedly released from prison due to a technicality, it kicks off an investigation of the original investigation and those involved in in.

The story switches back and forth with scenes from “Then” (15 years ago when Gray was on the team investigating the murder of Usher’s wife) and “Now,” as Gray tries to piece together what happened and what went wrong back “Then.” The mystery and Gray’s investigation are what you’d hope for and expect in a good thriller such as this. I also  found it interesting in that knowing some of the characters from previous books, then contrasting their interactions in the first investigation (back ”then”) to how things are “now,” gives a different and more complete feel for how they’ve evolved over time, not only as policemen, but as coworkers.

Last, all through this series has been the specter of Tom, Solomon Gray’s missing son, hanging over every investigation. Gray is always looking for clues, digging behind the scenes where he can, convinced that Tom is alive somewhere and that he’s going to find the person with the answer if he keeps looking. I’ve wondered whether there was anything to find, thinking Tom’s body had probably been swimming with the fishes of buried in a grave that was never going to be discovered. But Gray appears to make enough progress on this quest in this book that I’m not nearly as pessimistic. Maybe the next book will be the one to finally find out what happened to Tom.

If you like darkish crime fiction, especially with a little British flavor (make that flavour), this series including this latest installment is a good fit.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

UK spelling and slang.

Some adult language.

This is the third book in this series. It can be read as a stand alone with the needed back story being explained as needed.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Friday, November 2, 2018

Review: Burglars & Blintzes by Morgan C. Talbot




Genre: Cozy Mystery

Description:

“Moorehaven is swarming with guests during summer’s last hurrah, and Pippa has her hands full at the mystery-author B&B. When her gossip-group connections inform her that a local construction project has unearthed a skeleton with a pocketful of Spanish gold, the news spreads, and treasure hunters flood the beaches. But the skeleton has a more recent connection to the area than anyone suspected, unearthing a shameful secret that hits far too close to home.

A marine salvage team rolls into town, seeking the rest of the treasure. When they hire Pippa’s boyfriend, Lake, to be their pilot, the team’s pretty spelunker quickly stakes a claim, rousing Pippa’s jealousy. But Pippa’s been playing tug-of-war over Lake ever since his ex-wife, Mallory Tavish, became the new acting chief of police.

When a killer’s strike brings tragedy to Moorehaven’s door, Pippa must rally her friends, family, and mystery-writing guests to catch the murderer before she loses someone she can’t live without and all the warmth of summer dies with one last gasp.”

Author:

“USA Today Bestselling Author Morgan Talbot is an outdoorsy girl with a deep and abiding love for the natural sciences. Her degrees involve English and jujitsu. She enjoys hiking, camping, and wandering in the woods looking for the trail to the car, but there isn't enough chocolate on the planet to bribe her into rock climbing.”

Appraisal:

This is the second cozy mystery in this series and for cozy mystery fans makes for a good read. The setting, a bed and breakfast that limits its guests to mystery writers. This means there is never a shortage of amateur sleuths hanging around to throw their two cents in about the murders that apparently happen frequently in the fictional Seacrest, a small town on the beautiful and rugged Oregon Coast where it is located. As with every small town, there are plenty of rumors, everyone knows (or thinks they know) everyone else’s business. All of this combines to give our protagonist, Pippa Winterbourne, plenty of things to check out and ponder, as she tries to find the guilty parties. Burglars and Blintzes is an entertaining read that kept me guessing to the end.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review: Starswept by Mary Fan



Genre: Science Fiction/Coming of Age/Romance/Young Adult

Description:

“In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.”

Author:

“Mary Fan lives in New Jersey, where she is currently working in financial marketing. She has also resided in North Carolina, Hong Kong, and Beijing, China. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy.

Mary has a B.A. in Music, specializing in composition, from Princeton University and enjoys writing songs as much as writing stories. She also enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.

Appraisal:

I don’t generally read Science Fiction or dystopia, which earth is suffering from in Starswept. But the beautiful book cover drew me in and it’s good to stretch my wings once in a while.

Iris Lei is lucky enough to be born to parents while they were attending Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school, which therefore grants Iris automatic admission. She knows very little about her parents. But suspects her father aged out and must work off his debt for the education he received at Papillo, somewhere on earth, most likely in a poor paying factory job. Her mother was considered lucky to attract an Adryil patron, an advanced race of telepathic humanoids, who hire only the best artists.

At the age of fifteen Iris lives and breathes through her viola and the music it creates. One day an Adryil boy breaks into the school and passes Iris a piece of alien technology he can’t be caught with. Iris is smart enough to hide the piece from the security bots before they catch her with it. She has no idea what it is capable of, but it fascinates her and she keeps it with her at all times, especially when she discovers the boy she met can speak to her telepathically and via holograms as long as she has the device.

I found the first half of the book to move slowly as the author introduces her characters and paints the scenery of the school and the town outside of the school with its unfortunate inhabitants. It was interesting and in-depth for a full understanding of the world Ms. Fan has created.

The second half moves full on into science fiction as Iris is chosen by an Adryil patron. She’s excited to go on a starship to the alien planet in hopes of finding her mother and the mysterious alien boy who has captured her interest visiting her by holograms for the past weeks. The story takes off when Iris meets Cara, a member of the quartet Iris was hired to complete. The storyline is full of intriguing twists, rebel forces, and battles. Iris finds herself in situations that stretches her physical and emotional endurance well beyond what she thought she could endure. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride that complicates a budding romance, destroys another committed relationship, and tears apart a family. All in all a captivating start to this new series.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words