Monday, June 18, 2018

Reprise Review: The See-Through Leopard by Sibel Hodge



Genre: Contemporary/YA/Coming of Age

Description:

“Most sixteen-year-old girls are obsessed with their looks, but Jazz Hooper's obsessed for a different reason. After a car accident that kills her mum, Jazz is left with severe facial scars and retreats into a dark depression.
Fearing what will happen if Jazz doesn't recover, her dad makes a drastic decision to move them from England to a game reserve in Kenya for a new start. And when Jazz finds an orphaned leopard cub, it sets off a chain of events that lead her on a two year journey of discovery, healing, and love.”

Author:

“Sibel Hodge is an International Bestselling and Award Winning Author. She has 8 cats and 1 husband. In her spare time, she's Wonder Woman! When she's not out saving the world from dastardly demons she writes an eclectic mix of genres.”

Learn more about Ms. Hodge and her many other books at her website or like her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

This is an extremely captivating novel on many levels. Jazz was a typical self-absorbed teenager before the auto accident that killed her mother and left her with devastating facial scars. Now, a year later, she is still drowning in self-pity and guilt because she feels like she was solely responsible for causing the accident. Her father, being a large animal vet, and her mother lived and worked in Kenya at Kilingi Game Reserve before Jazz was born, so it was not unusual when he decided to try for a new start there when an opening for a new large animal vet became available at the same game reserve. Nathan, Jazz’s father, is hoping against all odds to draw Jazz out of her isolation and depression by changing the scenery.

The story is told through Jazz’s eyes so the reactions of school friends and strangers to Jazz’s scarred face was colored by her own insecurities, in some cases, but taunts continued in Kenya as well. When Jazz comes across a baby leopard cub, whose mother had been killed by poachers, she vows to raise the cub that she names Asha, with plans to release the leopard back into the wild when the time is right. With the help of Zach, who educates Jazz in all things leopard, she learns this is no small undertaking. Zach is a few years older than Jazz and is the son of the owners who run the Kilingi Game Reserve. He was born and raised in Kenya and plans to follow in his parent’s footsteps.

It is clear that Ms. Hodge did a lot of research to write this story as realistically possible. The prose used to paint the picture of Kenya made it easy to see and step into the African landscape. The education Jazz received about large predators was enlightening. One of the toughest lessons Jazz had to learn and accept was the whole circle of life theme. She had to be able to teach Asha how to hunt live game or she wouldn’t be able to be re-released into the wild. The information about poachers, poaching, and its consequences’ is heart-breaking and needs to be heard far and wide.

As Jazz immerses herself in rearing Asha and becomes an advocate for endangered species she gains a confidence in herself that helps her see past her own scars. This is a beautiful, educational, and inspirational story to be enjoyed by all ages. I would encourage everyone to pick up this book, read it, and then share it with a friend.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

"A percentage of the royalties from the sale of this book will be contributed to Panthera, a leading international conservation organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the world's big cats, plus other wildlife conservation groups."

Added for Reprise Review: The See-Through Leopard by Sibel Hodge was a nominee in the Young Adult category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran September 18, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues with formatting or editing.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review: River Spell by D.B. Sieders



Genre: Urban Fantasy/Multicultural

Description:

“She’s out for vengeance. He’s seeking justice.

Exiled and alone in a strange land, Rhinemaiden Gwen is still traumatized from her capture and torture by mortal monster hunters. To exorcise her demons, she doles out vigilante justice on mortal criminals—until former cop turned private investigator, Kwame Johnson, stops her in her tracks.

Captivating and enigmatic, Kwame is more than another mere mortal, and he's just beginning to understand the nature of the special sense that helps him track down missing persons. Gwen can help him reach his full potential, but can she trust a man who was hired by the monster hunters to track her down?”

Author:

“Award-winning author D.B. Sieders was born and raised in East Tennessee and spent her childhood hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, wading barefoot in creeks, and chasing salamanders, fish, and frogs. She and her family loved to tell stories while sitting around the campfire.

Those days of frog chasing sparked an interest in biology. She is a working scientist by day, but never lost her love of telling stories. Now, she’s a purveyor of unconventional fantasy romance featuring strong heroines and the heroes who strive to match them. Her heroes and heroines face a healthy dose of angst as they strive for redemption and a happily ever after, which everyone deserves.

D.B. Sieders lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, two children, three cats, and her very active imagination.”

Learn more about Ms. Seiders on her website, or stalk her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

River Spell is the fourth book in the Southern Elemental Guardians series. It looks like each book is about different related guardians, so I had no problem jumping into the middle of the series. The world is Earth which is divided and ruled accordingly in different realms. Gwen is one of the Rhinemaiden sisters, a mermaid with shapeshifting abilities and other magic. She has exiled herself to the New World, which is what they call the mortal realm, because she doesn’t feel like she fits in her own domain. However, she still protects her river. It’s during one of those acts that Gwen meets Kwame, an ex-police officer turned PI. Kwame recognizes energy levels, which he doesn’t fully understand, but has never led him wrong. So he is aware that Gwen is something other than how she appears.

The plot is original and flows at a good pace. The characters are well developed. Gwen and Kwame are both flawed, and seeking their own purposes in life. The storyline follows their budding interracial romance and turmoils. The dialogue is realistic and engaging, with the exception of the coupling scene. Kwame annoyed the hell out of me, and if I had been Gwen, I would have disappeared for good. At any rate the twists in the plot are extreme and lead Gwen to face her own demons. The fight scene was pretty awesome and revealed a lot more than I was expecting. The result took a surprisingly logical turn that I found satisfying. I would be interested in reading other books in this series.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

River Spell is book 4 in Ms. Sieders Southern Elemental Guardians series, but it can be read as a standalone. There are several F-bombs dropped, so if that word offends you, this book may not be a good fit for you.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found a small number proofing errors. They consisted of missing, extra, or wrong words

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Reprise Review: Raising Chaos by Elizabeth Corrigan



Genre: Fantasy

Description:

“When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge... when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there—Bedlam’s best friend, Khet—he can’t sit idly by.

Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer’s request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ’s side at His crucifixion. Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location. Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place.

His quest is made nearly impossible by ... a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands. But to Bedlam, “wrong” is just an arbitrary word, and there’s no way he’s letting Khet die without a fight.”

Author:

“Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.”

Ms. Corrigan owns over 150 seasons of television on DVD, loves zombie jokes, and her only culinary skill is the ability to make chocolate chip cookies.

Her first novel, Oracle of Philadelphia, was a nominee in Books and Pals 2014 Readers' Choice Awards.

To learn more visit Ms. Corrigan’s Amazon Author page or Facebookpage.

Appraisal:

“The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful—overindulging in Sri Lankan delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet.”  Bedlam was by far my favorite character in Oracle of Philadelphia and I was excited to learn that he would have his own book. This story has several plots that weave back and forth in time with some interesting history, new characters, and adds more depth to characters we have met before.

Ms. Corrigan uses differing points of view, which are divided into chapters, to shift from one scene to another keeping the suspense heightened between story threads. One new character was Siren, the Angel of Truth, who ends up being quite entertaining. Not only does she have to speak the truth, others around her must speak the truth as well. They cannot lie when in her presence. Siren could end up being another favorite character of mine, solely because of her inner dialogue. Bedlam's inner dialogue is totally unique as we get to listen to his good side argue with his demon self throughout his tests of worthiness by the Keepers of the Spear of Destiny, it was pure gold.

This is a complex tale that requires a lot of attention to details. If you read through quickly you will find yourself wanting to go back and reread sections. I wouldn't consider this a light beach read. But if you want to be pulled into a unique story with depth this is a good one for that. The pace is fast, but readers are given time to take a few breaths when the story switches to Carrie, who is vacationing on an east coast beach. She also has her own story within this book. So there is a lot going on throughout.

The ending was amazing, after I got past the gut wrenching scene where I thought I might have to throw my Kindle against the wall. By the way, I have never thrown a book but I could feel the need rising. I could not have been more satisfied and I didn't see it coming! Heaven is going to be turned on its ear and I can't wait to see who the next book is about or where the story may lead.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This is the second book in the Earthbound Angels series. Ms. Corrigan did an excellent job filling us in on the facts we needed to know for this story, it could be read as a stand-alone, although, I highly recommend reading Oracle of Philadelphia.

Added for Reprise Review: Raising Chaos by Elizabeth Corrigan was a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran April 11, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant issues with editing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Monday, June 11, 2018

Review: Climb Beyond the Crest by Don Defreeze


Genre: Personal Growth/Travel Memoir

Description:

“Separate yourself from the world’s hectic whirlwind and become part of an Appalachian Trail hike into enchanting wilderness. Buy into Don Defreeze’s personal narrative and be ticketed on a journey to supreme acuity. The thread is the hike while various trail segments jog thoughts ranging from philosophical to the practical, almost a discussion of reality’s nature. These ideas collectively create a frame of reference which walks the reader into symbiotic solitude and a personal challenge.”

Author:

Don Defreeze is a wilderness guide and owner of a guide service called Exchiking in Roanoke, Virginia.

Appraisal:

It’s tough to figure out how many of my complaints and issues with this book are valid complaints by any reasonable criteria and how much is “just me” based on taste, misplaced expectations, or something else. I’ll talk about them all and you can decide which might matter to you.

The first issue is the less than adequate copyediting and proofing job this book received. It was clearly lacking in this regard with missing or wrong words, homonym errors, and misspelled names, among other issues.

I also found the author’s writing style to be pretentious. It felt like rather than attempting to communicate his thoughts as clearly as possible that he instead wanted to impress someone by stringing together several obscure, seldom used words in a row. To be clear, there was nothing wrong with any of the words, but rather than using the perfect word to illuminate a thought more clearly the overuse of these words obfuscated the message instead. Here’s an example:

I can’t help or hold back a teary-eyed reaction to the emotional euphoria the John Denver song generates. While viewing the amazing scenery, my uplifted spirits share a remorse for the irreparable failure of mine to journey out into this realm during the lost, destitute years I spent filling the days subsisting within the Human Tree. Even the thrust of late to catch up with the wilderness experience has been besieged by economic objectives perceived to be more important, and I hang the loss of adventure on being hood-winked into chasing unessential goods.

Nothing wrong with any of those words, nor are any of them out of most of our vocabulary, yet the way they’re strung together feels like a whole lot of work to extract the meaning, at least to me. As a side-note, the long chapters (at least they felt long) with very few breaks within the chapters to create natural stopping points, gave me what I’ll call reader fatigue, trying to get to a good stopping point.

Last, after reading the book, I’m still left uncertain what the author’s message was intended to be. I’ve read literally hundreds of books based on a travel experience, probably forty or fifty of them based on a hike of some kind. These usually have two levels, the adventure of the experience and the lessons the author learned from the experience. It was apparent from the way this book is presented in its description that the author intended to focus more on the latter than is typical for these books, and that’s okay. At times I felt like I was being told what the lesson I should take away from the story was, rather than the story leading me to figure it out on my own. At other times I felt like I was completely missing the point. On this point, possibly other readers would react much differently. I just know it didn’t work for me.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

Lots of copyediting and proofing issues that snuck through to the published version. These include missing or wrong words, homonym errors, misspelling of names (both people and song titles), and other sundry problems.

Rating: ** Two Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Friday, June 8, 2018

Reprise Review: Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange by Helen Smith



Genre: Short Story/Dystopian/Literary Fiction

Description:

“Sarah wanted a sensitive, poetic, romantic boyfriend who would bring her flowers. Ryan ticks all the boxes. So why isn’t Sarah happy?”

Author:

“Helen Smith is a British crime writer who lives in London. Her books have appeared in ‘best of the year’ lists by For Books' Sake, The Cult Den, The Independent, and the Guardian.”


Appraisal:

What a strange little story this is. The description says it is set in “a futuristic England,” but it could easily be interpreted as a twisted dream concocted in the recesses of the brain while either of the primary characters were sleeping. I hesitate to say anything about the world Smith imagines as the setting - figuring that out is half the fun of the story. I’ll just say that in this story world a solution for helping with one of life’s more problematic choices has been developed. But it turns out that we humans sometimes don’t actually want what we think we do, creating a new set of problems. A fun, provocative story.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions.

Added for Reprise Review: Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange by Helen Smith was a Winner in the Short Story category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran February 14, 2015

Format/Typo Issues:

None

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 3-4,000 words

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Review: London Racer by Joe Vercillo



Genre: Coming of Age/Action-Adventure

Description:

“Princeton and the gang are back in this action-adventure sequel to Age Six Racer. When their best friend, Charlotte, goes missing, Princeton, Troy and Juice go out on a mission to find her and end up in London, England where an underground war is raging between rats and mice.”

Author:

“Joe Vercillo is a Canadian singer-songwriter/author from Toronto, Ontario. Stumbling upon the love of his life, he journeyed down to Princeton, New Jersey, and found a dead mouse in a garage. The rest is history.”

Appraisal:

London Racer chronicles the continuing adventures of the mouse named Princeton and his rodent buddies. As with Age Six Racer, the first of this trilogy, I’m surprised at how easily I bought into the premise of these pests as intelligent and caring beings. This story is full of adventure, with wars, international travel, and a literal rat race all playing a part. Throw in a little romance to make Princeton seem even more human and the result is a quick, fun change of pace from my normal reads.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

While this is the second book in the series it could be read as a stand-alone.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm by K. S. Brooks (Author, Photographer), and Mr. Pish



Genre: Children’s Picture Book/Educational

Description:

“The adventurous traveling terrier, Mr. Pish, takes us on a personally guided tour to show us what goes on at a farm. From playing with a cute lamb to driving a big swathing machine, Mr. Pish explores it all in Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm. In this sixth book in the Mr. Pish Educational Series, full color photographs and engaging text provide us with entertaining insight to teach us where our food comes from! Best viewed on a full color device.”

Author:

K.S. Brooks has written numerous books in multiple genres including romantic suspense, satire, and educationally oriented children’s books. She is administrator of Indies Unlimited (a multi-author blog “celebrating independent authors”), where you can often catch her pontificating on matters of interest to both readers and authors. For more, visit Ms. Brooks’ website, as well as Mr. Pish’s website.

Appraisal:

Who would have thought a trip to the farm could be so entertaining and informative? Mr. Pish explains about the many different types of farms there are. He even included greenhouses growing different types of flowers and vegetables. His engaging dialogue will keep kids interested as Pish shows different animals and farming implements from various eras. Mr. Pish’s enthusiasm springs off the page and into children’s imagination.

This is a fun read to share with your little ones and older children. Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm would be an excellent addition to any home or school library. 

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm is book 6 in the Mr. Pish Educational Series and is best read on a colored e-reader or tablet.

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues with proofing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 26 pages

Friday, June 1, 2018

Review: Murder Walk by Melissa Bowersock



Genre: Paranormal/Relationships/Mystery

Description:

“The best friend of Sam Firecloud’s son, Daniel, has been murdered. The boy is having a hard enough time dealing with the loss but then discovers that he’s inherited his father’s mediumistic ‘gift’ for communicating with the dead, a gift he doesn’t want. Lacey Fitzpatrick, Sam’s wife and partner, wants to start their own investigation into the murder, Sam is more worried about his son than the unsolved case, and Daniel just wants all ghosts to leave him alone. The family is being torn in three separate directions, but the murderer is still on the loose and may come after Daniel next, because the ghost is talking.”

Author:

“Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: paranormal, biography, western, action, romance, fantasy, spiritual, and satire. 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 also writes under the pen name Amber Flame.”

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

Appraisal:

Lacey, Sam, and the kids are settling into a nice routine in their new apartment and are now looking for an affordable art studio for Sam’s new venture. Daniel is fourteen and entering that moody stage most teens go through. However, when his best friend, Jason, is murdered, Daniel is forced to grow up quickly. Especially when Jason’s spirit starts speaking to him. Murder Walk stems around the effects this murder has on the Fireclouds, the LaRosas, Daniel’s new girlfriend, and Jason’s family as well. It deals with relationships from all angles.

There is tension between Lacey and Sam about how to handle Daniel and his new situation. Tension between Sam and Daniel, Sam knows Daniel knows more than he’s saying. And there is the guilt Lacey feels when she reaches out to Jason’s mother without telling Sam or Daniel. She also reaches out to the LAPD homicide detective, but keeps that info on the down-low.

What’s it going to take to get the whole story out of Daniel about what he is seeing and hearing? What can Sam do to help his son feel more comfortable around spirits when he knows Daniel has to accept this new talent he has? And will Kenzie have the spirit calling as well? What’s it going to take to keep Daniel safe if the murderer finds out Daniel can talk to ghosts?

Murder Walk has a nice pace and flows smoothly from one scene to the next. It’s thoughtfully written and the dialog is realistic in all aspects. It shows what it is like for a family trying to carry on with mundane life necessities after a trauma hits so close to home. With all the sadness there are lighter enjoyable moments. As Sam finds a place for his studio. Lacey and Kenzie approve, but Daniel is not so sure until his girlfriend Tori finds out about it. Don’t miss out on this one!    

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

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

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues in proofing or formatting to speak of.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Review: The Apathy Engine by Paul Gallimore



Genre: Science Fiction/Satire

Description:

“Set in a Utopian society in 2042, intelligent machines seem set to take over the planet.

The interruptions to the normal, smooth running of an untroubled world have already begun in the form of 'the glitching'.

Everybody sees the problems, but due to the numbing effects of a secret government mechanism, nobody is bothered enough to react when mankind's defenses are probed in readiness for humanity's last stand.

Only Cyril Greaves, the disgruntled proprietor of the English Pub League website, along with his eccentric band of friends seem ready and willing to step into the breach to fight the forces of mayhem and anarchy, and save the world.

With only an under-developed, prototype robot, a group of Sunday league soccer players, an extremely annoying teenage genius, Neville the lonesome strider, and a handful of psychopaths to help him, Cyril must defeat the mighty corporations and the all-seeing quantum super-computer menace before it's too late.

Or, maybe it's not as simple as that . . .”

Author:

Paul Gallimore is a novelist with two books published, a painter, and an entrepreneur with a web design business.

Appraisal:

Have you ever read a book that you’re not sure what to make of it? Something that fits some patterns you’ve seen before, but then again, isn’t quite like any other book? That’s a reasonable description of my thoughts about The Apathy Engine and I’m struggling to figure out how to describe it.

Did I like it? Yeah, I guess. Kind of.

Was it funny, thought provoking, and have interesting characters? Sure.

There is definitely some humor or satire here. The society at the time it takes place is utopian, but in some ways the book feels dystopian. (Maybe perfect isn’t so great after all.)

It’s certainly an adventure.

Then there is that little twist at the end. What the heck should I make of that? I wonder if you’ll interpret it the same way I did?

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Monday, May 28, 2018

Reprise Review: Molly Harper by Emelle Gamble



Genre: Women’s Fiction

Description:

When a teenage fling left fifteen year old Anne Sullivan pregnant, she gave up the baby for adoption. Thirty years later, she learned that her adopted child might be at risk for multiple sclerosis after the birth father and others in his family died at an early age from the disease. She tracks down her daughter’s adoptive family planning to share the medical news with them.

Author:

Ms. Gamble was first published by Harlequin Intrigue's line of romantic suspense as 'M. L. Gamble' and wrote seven books for them.

She writes relationship stories about women and the men they love and the friends they hold dearest, with a touch of mystery here, a ghost there, something extraordinary that gives the folks in her imagined world a little extra to deal with.

You can find out more on her website.

Appraisal:

This story sucked me in very quickly. The first meeting between Anne Sullivan and the woman who adopted her child was fraught with tension and complexity. Both characters were finely drawn and I found myself appreciating the predicament Anne’s sudden appearance on the scene created for them both.

Molly Harper, for whom the book is named, was the child that Anne gave up, and that first meeting led to increasing complexity as the two families dealt with a myriad of external difficulties and at the same time tried to cope with the realization that their lives had been based on a lie (neither mother shared the secret of the adoption).

It’d be difficult to share any more of the plot without spoiling your enjoyment of the story. I found it absorbing. If you enjoy women’s fiction, I think you will too.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Molly Harper by Emelle Gamble was the winner in the Women’s Fiction category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran July 17, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

Too few to mention.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words