Friday, July 13, 2018

Review: Spirit Walk by Melissa Bowersock



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Native American/Ghosts

Description:

“On the Navajo reservation, a man is found dead at the bottom of a canyon. The tribal police have ruled it an accident. People close to the man don’t believe it, so medium Sam Firecloud and his partner, Lacey Fitzpatrick, are called in to investigate. When Sam’s psychic “walk” confirms the worst fears, the clues lead him and Lacey forward, but the twisted path to the truth turns deadly when it seems the earth itself is trying to kill them.”

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 stalk her on Facebook.


Appraisal:

I was excited to learn that Lacy and Sam Firecloud were going back to the Navajo reservation in Spirit Walk. A man is found dead at the bottom of a slot canyon, the Tribal Police have ruled it an accident. His wife and friends don’t believe it. Going back to the reservation is always a culture shock for Lacey, however, she loves visiting Sam’s family, and she is learning to respect the land on which Sam was born.

When Sam’s psychic walk through the area of the canyon where the man died confirms the wife’s suspicion that it was not an accident, he also feels a tumult of conflicting emotions from the man. These feelings are going to make the puzzle harder to put together. But Sam needs physical evidence to prove to the Tribal police this death was not an accident. At the slot canyon they met John Stoneburner, a Navajo Nation Ranger, and a non-believer in Sam’s psychic abilities. However, after Sam points out the trail has been brushed with something to cancel foot prints that were over looked by the Tribal police, Stoneburner leaves them to do their work.

The plot twists and turns as Sam and Lacey speak with his friends and employer. All they learn is what a great guy he was and no one carries any grudges toward the man. I enjoyed Spirit Walk’s pacing, it has an easy going laid-back sort of pace that is captivating. The end is a tense, heart-pounding race that has a satisfying but exhausting close. I think Stoneburner is a little closer to being a believer now. And where was my Navajo taco?

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


FYI:
Spirit Walk is the eleventh book in Melissa Bowersock’s A LACEY FITZPATRICK and SAM FIRECLOUD MYSYTERY SERIES.

Format/Typo Issues:

I came across no issues in proofing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Reprise Review: A One Way Ticket to Dead by D.V. Berkom

 https://www.amazon.com/Ticket-Dead-Kate-Jones-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00IUD2AZC/?tag=bisboanpa-20


Genre: Thriller

Description:

“After years of running from her ex—a vicious Mexican drug lord—and his subsequent death, Kate Jones is ready to bury the past and try to piece together a new normal. But first there’s a loose end to tie and it involves digging up old ghosts that are best left alone.

Unaware her actions have attracted the notice of a powerful enemy Kate is plunged into a deadly fight for survival, as both her life and the lives of the children of a man she once loved hang in the balance. And, with the possibility of an informant inside the DEA, she doesn’t know who she can trust.

From the emerald green shores of Seattle to the lush Yucatan jungle and unforgiving Sonoran desert, Kate Jones must once again face her past...and hope she survives.”

Author:

DV Berkom was “raised in the Midwest, she received her BA in political science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Many, many cross-country moves (and several years) later, she now lives just outside of Seattle, Washington with the love of her life, Mark, an ex-chef-turned contractor, and writes every chance she gets.” She is the author of two thriller series.

For more, visit her website.

Appraisal:

A One Way Ticket to Dead picks up Kate Jones’ story shortly after events in the previous book in the series, Yucatan Dead, ended. An error in judgment many years ago has forced Kate to live on the run and under the radar, hiding from her ex, a Mexican drug lord, who was determined to kill her. Now he’s dead and Kate’s ready to settle down in one place and get on with her life. It turns out that her ex isn’t the only one looking for a pound of flesh. By the time Kate realizes she still isn’t safe and can go to ground, her new nemesis has kidnapped the two children of an ex-lover, forcing her to do whatever is necessary to insure they’re returned safely.

Those who enjoyed Yucatan Dead will find this new installment in Kate’s life just as good. Although the stakes are different, the action is in the same vein, with Kate putting herself in harm’s way in the jungles and deserts of Mexico in a no-holds-barred quest to meet her goal.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Although part of a series, needed backstory is included, so reading this as a standalone shouldn’t be a problem.

Added for Reprise Review: A One Way Ticket to Dead by D.V. Berkom was a nominee in the Thriller category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran April 27, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: 3 Hour Dad by Adam T. Hourlution



Genre: Memoir

Description:

“What would you do if you were suddenly told you were going to be a mum or dad without any notice? How would you react? What thoughts would go through your head? You haven't prepared to be a parent, you've not made any arrangements and nobody in your family is aware.

Now imagine that not even the mum-to-be knew that she had been hiding a little person inside her tummy the entire time.

One day Adam, just your average, typical guy receives a call from his mother-in-law (to be !) summoning him to the hospital following his girlfriend being rushed in with suspected appendicitis only to discover that she is in fact having contractions and has been admitted to the labour ward.

This heart-warming and true story invites readers to step into Adam's shoes and experience what it is like to be a 3 Hour Dad.”

Author:

I suspect Adam Hourlution might be a pen name, but I’m not sure. It’s apparent he comes from the UK, but other than that, your guess is as good as mine. He does invite readers to friend him on Facebook, but as you can see if you check out his Facebook wall, there isn’t much there either. What I can say is he lives with his relatively new wife and their child.

Appraisal:

I’d call this an adventure story. Anyone who has become a parent knows the extremes in emotion you go through, from joy to panic, and that’s assuming you both intended for this to happen and had time to prepare. But imagine you’re a couple who wasn’t planning on having a child right now and thought you were doing everything to prevent it. Imagine that the woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant. Obviously, she can’t tell her boyfriend. But once she goes into labor, someone is going to figure out what’s going on and the couple has to make the switch to parenthood with no time to prepare.

There you have the premise of this memoir. It made me panic just imaging how I’d have reacted in the same situation. The author did much better and the story of how he reacted and how he views the situation now that it is a few years behind him is both humorous and inspiring. A fun read, as long as you don’t have to go through the experience yourself.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

As the author is from the UK, the language and spelling conventions used reflect that.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 10-15,000 words

Friday, July 6, 2018

Reprise review: Two and a Half Weeks by Tim Jackson



Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Humor/Short Story

Description:

“Caribbean dive guide Gage Hoase woos and wins a beautiful dive guest then sends her packing. All is good until Gabi returns, with happily-ever-after on her mind. Now Gage has to figure a way to let her down gently before she offs him in his sleep.”

Author:

A former photojournalist, Tim W. Jackson now splits his time between captaining a boat, teaching people how to scuba dive, and (obviously) writing. He has one novel, Mangrove Underground. Jackson also has multiple short stories available, all set on the tropical Blacktip Island, also the setting for his upcoming second novel.

For more, visit Jackson’s blog.

Appraisal:

The setup is simple, with lots of possibility. Gage thinks he’s got the perfect situation as he puts his twist on the old clichĂ©. He loves ’em, but they do the leaving. Then one of his conquests decides to come back with plans to stay. As you might expect, the situation is full of humor as Gage attempts to extricate himself. This is a well written, short, yet fun read.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Mild adult situations.

Added for Reprise Review: Two and a Half Weeks by Tim W. Jackson was a nominee in the Short Story category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran November 24, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 4-5,000 words

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Review: Floreat Queenie by Carolyn Steele



Genre: Satire

Description:

“Christmas 2032: The British Republic’s citizen government are about to begin the second year of their time in office. Last year was pretty rough for some of the randomly chosen ministers, despite the best efforts of the Cabinet Support Team to keep them in line. But they survived, and news that the nation came close to disaster never did leak out. They are wiser now. And a bit cockier and possibly a tad bolshier. It’s just a pity someone will have to put their life on the line this year…”

Author:

A native of the UK, Carolyn has worked in a number of professions, from psychologist to driving a semi-truck to an editor and proofreader. Then there's this author thing too, with two non-fiction books to her credit as well as contributing to several more. This is the second book in her first fictional series.

Appraisal:

This picks up the story of Queenie Mason who was introduced in the first book of the series, Queenie’s Teapot. It is taking place in the near future after the world’s political systems have gone through some major upheaval and revisions. 

In this installment, Queenie continues to practice her own style of diplomacy while the various other governmental officials scramble to deal with a crisis or two, brought about due to how they handled a crisis in the first book. As in the first book, this is an interesting combination of political satire and a future world that may or may not be dystopian. (I can say for sure that it isn’t utopian though.) If you liked the first installment, you’ll want to read this one as well.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

This is the second book in a series. Although it could probably be read as a standalone, I advise reading the first book prior to reading this one to get a full understanding of the political world it is happening in.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant errors.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Monday, July 2, 2018

Review: Realm of Mindweavers by Marianne Ratcliffe



Genre: Epic Fantasy/Adventure/Young Adult

Description:

“A ruler is betrayed and his young daughter is forced to flee or die.

Teenage Zastra is a big disappointment to her father, Leodra, ruler of Golmeira, because she hasn't got what it takes to become a mindweaver, one of the highly valued few who can manipulate the thoughts of others. Things get much worse for Zastra when she is roused from her bed to find that Leodra has been betrayed and her beloved Golmer Castle overrun with enemy soldiers. She escapes via the castle's ancient underground tunnels, only to be faced with a terrible choice. Hunted across the turbulent landscape of Golmeira, Zastra must rely on her wits and the help of strangers as she tries to outrun the powerful forces set upon her trail.”

Author:

From Marianne Ratcliffe’s author page: “I am a PhD-qualified biomedical scientist living and working in Cheshire and have authored several peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. In my spare time, I enjoy creative writing. I have had short stories published in Debut and Scribble magazines and was a runner up in the 2010 Guildford Literary Festival Short Story competition. In 2014, I published my first novel, Realm of Mindweavers, a fantasy/adventure story suitable for young adults and grown-ups. Murthen Island followed in 2015, and I have recently released the third instalment, Return to Golmeira.
My inspiration for these books was a desire to write a different kind of fantasy series. I wanted to create a world where women were seen as equal to men and where same sex couples were as commonplace and accepted as opposite sex couples. Also, I wanted to create a heroine who has no special powers. Although there is a kind of magic in my world, called mindweaving, my protagonist, Zastra, doesn't have mindweaving abilities, much to her dismay. And so, when an incident occurs that turns her world upside down, she has to rely on guts, intelligence and even a bit of luck to come get herself out of trouble. There's no magical power to come to her rescue.”

To learn more about Ms. Radcliffe visit her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Realm of Mindweavers starts off with a nice easy pace as the characters become fully realized and the fantasy world is introduced, which is similar to earth. Zastra is an intelligent, respectful, and ambitious child. She is also a daredevil when it comes to sneaking around the castle into places she doesn’t belong. She easily befriends new-comers and bravely stands up to bullies. Zastra also loves her twin infant siblings. On her thirteenth birthday she is tested by the castle Mindweaver who looks inside her mind to see if she has the mindweaver ability. Her father is disappointed when she fails the test. This is also an ability he doesn’t possess, and he knows he is viewed as a weak king for not being a mindweaver.

The plot speeds up when the castle is overthrown early one morning and Zastra’s world is turned upside down. Her father charges her with the twins’ safety and well-being then leads her to a concealed ancient tunnel to escape the castle. Zastra has to live by her wits to dodge enemy soldiers at every turn. Zastra is faced with hard choices as the plot twists. Making unexpected friends along the way who help her elude those who seek her and her siblings’ demise. This journey is an enchanting roller-coaster ride of emotions and tension that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

There is a lot of captivating action in Realm of Mindweavers. As I was reading a climactic scene near the end, I became concerned this book would end with a cliffhanger. Rest assured that this book comes to a satisfying ending. However there is more story to be told, and I can’t wait to read more of Zastra’s journey.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
FYI:

Realm of Mindweavers is the first book in the Tales of Golmeira series. Ms. Ratcliffe lives in the U.K. and uses British spelling. Doh!

Format/Typo Issues:

I came across a small number of proofing misses such as missing or extra words, and misspelled words. As well as the right words in the wrong position. “To go now back would put…” and “When do you think will they be here?”

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words


Friday, June 29, 2018

Reprise Review: Home Owner with a Gun by Samuel Hawley



Genre: Thriller

Description:

Jeff is a quiet family man who works at the local grocery store. At home, in the middle of the night, he’s awoken by noises downstairs. Armed with a gun, he surprises two men in his kitchen and kills them both. The story follows Jeff as the ramifications of that night’s events change his life forever.

Author:

Samuel Hawley taught English in East Asia for many years before becoming a full-time writer. His books include the novel Bad Elephant Far Stream and the nonfiction works Speed Duel: The Inside Story of the Land Speed Record in the Sixties; I Just Ran: Percy Williams, World’s Fastest Human; and The Imjin War: Japan’s Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China. He lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Appraisal:

Jeff is an unlikely main character—just an everyman, really. His deadly shots on the night of the break in had no malice about them. He was as terrified as he crept downstairs to protect his family as I would have been.

Initially, I thought maybe Jeff would have problems with the police believing his story—I was worried for the man. The problems that did ensue, however, were of a quite different nature, and, for me, totally unexpected.

I don’t want to spoil the story, so I won’t go into detail, but a second thread that runs through the novel involves some local gangstas. The author drew these characters as vividly as he did Jeff and his family. And the juxtaposition between these two wildly different groups of people was what made the novel so compelling.

I read this in two sittings, staying up late. From an unlikely beginning, the novel grows and develops into an action-packed, well-written thriller.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Home Owner with a Gun by Samuel Hawley was a nominee in the Thriller category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran January 28, 2015.

Format/Typo Issues:

Well edited.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Review: Mom's House: A Memoir by Lynne Cantwell

Note: Yesterday we got BigAl's take on this book. In this second half of a "doubleshot" review, we're getting a second opinion.


Genre: Memoir

Description:

“If the Universe gave you the chance to deliver karmic justice, would you do it?

Lynne Cantwell was the late-in-life child of parents who had already lost a baby daughter. Her brother, ten years older, delivered emotional and verbal abuse for as long as she could remember. As a young adult, she moved halfway across the country to escape him.

Decades later, when their mother’s health began to fail, Lynne was forced to work with her brother – first to keep their mother in their childhood home, and then to prepare the house for a sale that never happened. Everything changed, but the family dynamics stayed the same.

This book – entertaining and heart-wrenching by turns – is a tale of the way abuse plays out across generations, and of what it takes to end it.”

Author:

“Lynne Cantwell has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed her a book he had written, and she thought, ‘I could do that.’ The result was Susie and the Talking Doll, a picture book illustrated by the author about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks.

Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. She is also a contributing author at Indies Unlimited. She lives near Washington, DC.”

You can connect with Ms. Cantwell at her website or on Facebook.

Appraisal:

I don’t normally read non-fiction, however this book drew my attention. I am interested in how people cope with abuse and the extenuating circumstances that keep them in abusive relationships. Lynne’s abuser was her older brother (by ten years) with a somewhat complacent mother who either looked the other way or wrote it off as sibling rivalry. The whole family dynamic was dysfunctional. Lynne recognized this and did what she could to survive until she was old enough to move far away. Little did she realize at the time how emotional abuse infects other relationships that develop in the future.  

I’m sure I grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional family, as many of us did. I am the oldest of my four siblings, however, I don’t recall any abuse. At least nothing besides what was considered normal parental punishment at the time, and we managed to grow up to be successful adults. To be truthful, I am the most dysfunctional in my family. I claim it is genetics, LOL. That’s my way of diverting the truth.

Following Lynne’s journey was enlightening, but also baffling, and heart-breaking at times. Hopefully, we all try to do the best we can with what we are given. Life is a struggle to keep our heads above the water and it’s doubly hard when we have those who keep pulling us down, taking advantage of our basically good hearts. I found Mom’s House a valiant effort to exorcise demons. Highly recommended. 

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Mom’s House contains emotional and verbal abuse, no sexual abuse. I mention that because the book is tagged with sexual abuse on Amazon US, however not on Amazon UK site.

Format/Typo Issues:

Nothing to speak of.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Mom's House by Lynne Cantwell

Note: It has been a while since we've had a "double shot" (a review of the same book by two different Books and Pals reviewers. Today, we're getting BigAl's take on this book. Tomorrow morning we'll see what ?wazithinkin thinks of the same book.



Genre: Memoir

Description:

“If the Universe gave you the chance to deliver karmic justice, would you do it?
Lynne Cantwell was the late-in-life child of parents who had already lost a baby daughter. Her brother, ten years older, delivered emotional and verbal abuse for as long as she could remember. As a young adult, she moved halfway across the country to escape him.

Decades later, when their mother’s health began to fail, Lynne was forced to work with her brother – first to keep their mother in their childhood home, and then to prepare the house for a sale that never happened. Everything changed, but the family dynamics stayed the same.

This book – entertaining and heart-wrenching by turns – is a tale of the way abuse plays out across generations, and of what it takes to end it.”

Author:

“Lynne Cantwell has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed her a book he had written, and she thought, "I could do that." The result was Susie and the Talking Doll, a picture book illustrated by the author about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks.

Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. She is also a contributing author at Indies Unlimited. She lives near Washington, DC.”

Appraisal:

Memoir is an interesting genre in that I suspect the reason someone might choose to read a book in the genre is going to vary more from person to person and from book to book than with other genres. You might choose to read a memoir to better understand someone different from you or the exact opposite, as a way to remind yourself that there are people with the same difficulties or struggles as you have. It might be to learn more about someone you’d like to emulate, or to get an idea of how to deal with a person or situation. Or maybe the memoir is just something a particular reader thinks sounds like an interesting or entertaining story.

All of that is a long prelude to saying that the appeal of Mom’s Home for you could be vastly different from what I liked about it, depending on the reader. Or it may have no appeal at all. For some readers who have dealt with abusive family, need ideas in doing so, or just want to know that others have found a way out, that’s here for you. For me it made me thankful that I don’t have those issues, glad that, as different as I and my siblings are, we have a relationship many, maybe most, families don’t. It was an adventure and a story with an ending that, while not exactly what I’d describe as completely happy, was a satisfying conclusion. As a reader, pulling for the author, just like I would be for a protagonist in a fictional tale, it was a good story. The funny thing about real stories, something the author even mentioned at one point, is that in fiction the story has to be credible. Sometimes in real life things happen that are so out there that an author wouldn’t dare put them in fiction because the reader would find them unrealistic. At times this sure pushed those limits as only a true story can. And while I wasn’t thinking about it when I was reading the story, I suspect I’ve learned a few new ways of dealing with difficult people that could prove valuable in the future.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Friday, June 22, 2018

Review: Tizita by Sharon Heath



Genre: Literary Fiction

Description:

Amazon’s blurb says “Physics wunderkind Fleur Robins, just a little odd and more familiar with multiple universes than complicated affairs of the heart, is cast adrift when her project to address the climate crisis is stalled. Worse, her Ethiopian-born fiancĂ© Assefa takes off right after her 21st birthday party to track down his father, who’s gone missing investigating Ethiopian claims to the Ark of the Covenant. … Assefa’s reconnection with a childhood sweetheart leads Fleur to … a bumbling encounter with her rival. The experience of tizita – the interplay of memory, loss, and longing – [flings] Fleur into conflicts between science and religion, race and privilege, climate danger and denial, sex and love ... with humor, whimsy, and the clumsiness and grace of innocence.”

Author:

Amazon vouchsafes “Sharon Heath writes fiction and non-fiction exploring the interplay of science and spirit, politics and pop culture, contemplation and community. A certified Jungian Analyst … and faculty member of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, she … has [inter alia] given talks … on topics ranging from the place of soul in social media to gossip, envy, secrecy, and belonging. She blogs at http://www.sharonheath.com/. Which is all to say that she knows whereof she writes. Her breadth of knowledge about all manner of things is astonishing. She has the magpie eye of the true writer.”

Appraisal:

This is an extraordinary book. It is so stuffed with ideas that they overflow. There is a curiosity about the world in all the vibrant characters who inhabit the book. I learned much (as you know, I do like to finish a book feeling that I have done so) about physics, philosophy, religions (various), Ethiopia, Jane Goodall’s Gombe chimp sanctuary, the odd way humans behave toward each other and (not the least just because I’ve put it last) climate change. Read it to be amazed and informed as well as royally entertained. (Some of the word choices are exquisite.) Along the way Heath discusses racism, rape, female circumcision and abortion in the present day through her characters’ experience of these. There is plenty of sex. There is also plenty of mild self-harm (if self-harm can ever be mild).

Do not be put off (but be prepared for) descriptions of everything a character’s eye lights upon (the descriptions are always vivid). There is also rather too much harking back to the first book about Fleur Robins (The History of my Body). There is both not enough to make what happened in the first book meaningful for someone who has not read it, and too much of it for Tizita to carry without it becoming burdensome. These interpolations interfered with pace from time to time. This strategy also threw up that Fleur’s life (physics project apart) seemed to have been marking time for the five years between The History of my Body and Tizita.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:  

A few f-bombs, plenty of sex, description of rape, female circumcision, and self-harm; discussion of abortion and racism.

Format/Typo Issues:

Very few.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Judi Moore

Approximate word count: 115-120,000 words