Monday, July 30, 2018

Review: Every Wind of Change (Paths of Shadow Book 3) by Frank Tuttle



Genre: Epic Fantasy/Magic/Young Adult/Sci-Fi/Adventure

Description:

“Mage Meralda’s perilous airship journey across the vast Great Sea made her a hero.

Her discovery of the Arc may doom her world.

The Arc, a mysterious metal structure hanging ten thousand feet above the stormy Sea, is singing. Tasked by the King to decipher the Arc’s strange song, Meralda discovers plans for an outlandish machine hidden in the song’s mathematical lyrics.

With sharp-tongued vegetable familiar Mug at her side, Meralda embarks on an unexpected journey across the void. Together they face ravenous beasts, ancient engines, and the most diabolical creature of all – Meralda's own long-lost mother.

With nothing but her wits, her Sight, and her determination to return home and find a decent cup of coffee, Meralda vows to lead her tiny band to safety. But her long journey home also means facing an old sorrow, and a singularly unpleasant truth.

As monsters close in, can Meralda prevail where thousands before her failed and perished?”

Author:

“Frank Tuttle lives and writes in the perpetually humid wilderness of North Mississippi. Frank tried to be a proper Southern author and write about pickups and hound dogs, but trolls and magic kept creeping into his stories, so Frank is a fantasy author. Although hounds do make occasional appearances in his fiction.”

To learn more about Frank Tuttle you can check out his website and of course you may also friend Mr. Tuttle on Facebook.

Appraisal:

While this series, Paths of Shadow, has always had an element of steampunk and magic in its world, Every Wind of Change jumps into the realm of Sci-Fi after the “event.” Sorry, I got a little ahead of myself there. Meralda has been assigned, by the King of Tirlin, to decipher the sounds the mysterious Arc is emitting. He also bestows a pay raise and a promotion to Tirlin’s Secret Service. Her new boss is none other than Mrs. Primsbite. To put a cherry on top of it all, Meralda’s long-absent mother reappears and insists on insinuating herself, and her little dog too, into her daughter’s life again. Donchen attempts to arbitrate between mother and daughter, to Meralda’s dismay.

While Meralda is attempting to decipher the Arcs complicated song, King Yvin insists on seeing her results so far. Meralda has to oblige with an incomplete work. Unbeknownst to all, this exhibition initiates a standard tripping wheel transport protocol from the Arc bringing forth the “event” that hurls Meralda, Donchen, Mug, Meralda’s mother, and Mrs. Primsbite (Oh, and I mustn’t forget Nameless and Faceless in crow form as well.) into the embattled Hub of the Arc which is located in the void. Luckily our small band is befriended by an unusual robot named Skoof, who knows the Arc well and assists finding them a safe place to hide from giant carnivorous cockroaches, called Mags who are well aware of their arrival, before they can formulate a way home without magic.

The plot is cleverly crafted and engaging with twists and turns of the outlandish storyline, since they are all out of their element I found that fitting. The dialogues are intelligent, cunning, and witty. New characters are introduced who I hope to see more of in the next book. The scenery and surroundings are well described, which place the reader right beside the characters. The ending is epic and a lot more far-reaching than I was expecting. Meralda’s mother also gains a new larger pet, which fits her well. Readers will also be pleased that Mr. Reardon, mother’s ankle-biter, is still with her as well. Don’t miss this new addition to Meralda and Mug’s adventure.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Every Wind of Change is the third book in a planned four book series from Mr. Tuttle’s, Paths of Shadow. Each book stands alone. However I have enjoyed watching each character’s growth as the series continues. The first book of the series is All the Paths of Shadow, followed by All the Turns of Light.

Format/Typo Issues:

I did find a small number of proofing issues, nothing that threw me out of the story.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Friday, July 27, 2018

Review: Death of a Movie Star by Timothy Patrick




Genre: Satire

Description:

StarBash is the hottest thing on TV. Featuring desperate actors facing off in madcap competitions to win a movie deal, the reality show is famous for making fools of its fame-starved participants.

So it seems odd that respected Hollywood A-lister Cassandra ‘Casmo’ Moreaux would become a contestant. But her motivation is simple: revenge against the program's producer, Lenora Danmore, the legendary movie star who blacklisted Casmo's mother during the McCarthy era.

Casmo plans to use StarBash to confront and embarrass Lenora in front of the entire country--but what Casmo doesn't know could kill her.

Vindictive and wicked, Lenora is determined to set a trap for the upstart movie star. But when Casmo unexpectedly falls in love with the show's wry host--Lenora's illegitimate son--the murder plot bubbles over with unforeseen complications.

Featuring sarcastic celebrities, murderous androids, and off-the-wall humor from beginning to end, Death of a Movie Star masterfully pulls Hollywood culture apart at the seams. It's a Tinseltown romp that's part mystery, part suspense, and two parts roller derby!”

Author:

“Tim Patrick learned at an early age about living on both sides of the tracks. His family scraped to pay the rent but he received his primary education at an exclusive boarding school, thanks to smooth talking parents and a generous scholarship. On visiting day Tim watched the parents of his schoolmates arrive in limousines and Lamborghinis. His parents arrived in a utility van that said ‘Patrick's TV Repair’ on the sides.”

A UCLA graduate, Tim is the father of two grown children and lives with his wife in Southern California. This is his second novel.

Appraisal:

This was definitely different. It’s satire, poking fun at both Hollywood and the cult of celebrity as well as at reality TV in general. The characters, at least on the surface, fit various Hollywood clichés, yet (just like with most clichés) are a bit deeper and unique than the cliché would lead you to believe. It’s a fun read with a little of a futuristic feel, a bit of a mystery, and a whole lot of laugh and head shake inducing scenes.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Review: A-Void by Babak Govan




Genre: Dystopian

Description:

“Those who adapt to environmental changes survive. What happens when the environment changes too fast for us to adapt?
In an increasingly fast-paced, near-future world, psychologist Billy Carrington wakes from a nap to discover that he is completely alone. With his all-in-one Organelle smart device, a growing menagerie of animals, and a potentially life-saving vaccine, he crosses the country searching for his wife and child—and for an answer to what happened while he slept. A cautionary tale of our fast-forward world, A-Void illuminates the risks of accelerating technology and information overload.”

Author:

A psychologist in private practice, Babak Govan is “the originator of the theory of the evolving psyche and moderative psychotherapy.” He lives in Portland, Oregon with his family. Although A-Void is his first published book, his work has been published by various literary periodicals. He’s also recorded an album of electronic rock under the name Secret Arcade.

Appraisal:

While A-Void has a lot of the characteristics you’d expect from a dystopian story, with things changing in a way that leaves the characters off balance and scrambling to figure things out, it felt different. Unlike many dystopian books, I didn’t get the feeling that I’d been here before and could anticipate what was coming next. Along with Billy, the narrator and only real character in the story, I was nervous and concerned as to what he’d find next. If you’re a fan of the dystopian genre, this novella is one you’ll want to give a try.

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: 25-30,000 words

Monday, July 23, 2018

Reprise Review: Following His Heart by Donna Fasano



Genre: Romance

Description:
“Sara Carson is a 30-something widow with a busy life. Two fun-loving best friends, a caring mom who needs her, and a thriving sweet shop. What more could a woman want? But when the ancient plumbing in her shop springs a leak and a gorgeous, dark-eyed stranger rushes to her rescue, hilarity unfolds--and Sara quickly sees exactly what she's been missing.

Something most peculiar draws Landon Richards to Ocean City, Maryland--and to the lovely Sara. This woman touches his heart like no other, and the two of them explore the heady attraction that pulses between them. But haunting dreams have a way of encroaching on reality, and the strange phenomenon that brings these two together will also threaten to tear them apart.

This is the first book in the Ocean City Boardwalk Series, where life for three enterprising women, Sara, Heather, and Cathy, isn't just fun in the sun--love is waiting on those sandy shores!”

Author:

 Award winning and bestselling author Donna Fasano has written more than twenty novels over the course of her career with almost four million copies sold. She’s not only popular among the reviewers at Books and Pals, but apparently our readers as well, winning our Readers’ Choice Award in the romance category in both 2013 and 2014.

For more, visit Ms. Fasano’s website.

Appraisal:

You’ve heard the cliché that says “every story has already been told,” right? At a certain level of abstraction, that’s true. The specifics of character and plot may differ, but there are a limited number of basic stories. It amazes me how authors are able to put their own unique twists on a basic story and end up with something that still feels fresh and new. This goes double (or maybe quadruple) for the romance genre where every book is the same basic story.

Following His Heart made me go “wow” in this regard. At its core, it is the basic romance. Girl meets boy, they take a romantic roller coaster ride fluctuating between, if not love and hate, at least dislike and like a whole bunch, then the happily-ever-after ending. There are minor characters that act as confidants and comedic foils for the heroine and hero, while giving the story more depth. (Primarily the heroine’s disabled mother, plus her best friends, Heather and Cathy.)

But the twists, what set this story apart from a typical romance, is a strange turn the story takes that I’ve described as a combination of a little supernatural and horror-lite, although I’d be quick to say that romance readers who don’t normally gravitate to these genres shouldn’t find this too much of a departure from the norm to be objectionable. I found it thought-provoking in ways I’d have never anticipated.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Relatively mild adult situations.

Added for Reprise Review: Following His Heart by Donna Fasano was the winner in the Romance category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran January 6, 2015

Format/Typo Issues:

This review is based on a pre-release beta copy. I’m unable to judge the final product in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words

Friday, July 20, 2018

Review: Conflict by Eric Halpenny




Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Story

Description:

“The Canadian army was widely viewed to be one of the finest fighting forces in WWI, acclaimed by friend and foe alike. However, historical figures and newspaper articles do little to illuminate the true nature of war. For that, one must see through the eyes of those that fought the war. One must stand in their shoes, sleep with their dreams, and shudder at their fears. This venture into the fictional lives of John and Greg attempts to offer that experience. Bound by friendship, these young warriors embark on a journey of trial and tragedy in Conflict, a 20th Century historical fiction. They face death, loss, and grief as compatriots fall in battle and hopes of glory die with them.”

Author:

“Eric Halpenny is a seemingly normal engineer by day, but a fiction author by night. He hasn't quit his day job. His preferred subject matter concerns life, existence, choice, spirituality, God, science, philosophy, and the nature of reality—all in the guise of entertaining stories. He started writing novels at the age of eight, but waited to publish until thirty-eight. He is often inspired in the middle of the night or while driving home from work. He lives in Northern California with his wife and three children.”

Appraisal:

A quick, thought-provoking short story about two friends serving as Canadian soldiers in WWI. It explores war and the motivations of the two friends as well as how the experience of war might change their outlook.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 10-11,000 words

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review: A Shallow River of Mercy by Robert Hays


Genre: Suspense

Description:

“Ernst Kohl has spent nearly half his life in prison after being convicted of murder as a young man. Upon his release, with nowhere else to go, Kohl returns to his old family home on the outskirts of a small Michigan town, hoping for redemption, or at least understanding.

He finds a dog, a girlfriend, and a job in quick succession, and it seems as if he might finally be able to leave the past behind and make a quiet life for himself. But some of the residents, including the town’s corrupt deputy sheriff, are less than thrilled to see him, and will stop at nothing to rid the town of its infamous resident.

As events hurtle to an inevitable conclusion, Kohl is left to decide: At what point might a man break, and at what cost to himself?”

Author:

“Robert Hays has been a newspaper reporter, public relations writer, magazine editor, political campaign manager and university professor and administrator. A native of Illinois, he taught in Texas and Missouri and retired from a long journalism teaching career at the University of Illinois. He also has spent a great deal of time in South Carolina, the home state of his wife Mary, and was an active member of the South Carolina Writers Workshop. He served in the U.S. Army and holds three degrees, including an interdisciplinary Ph.D., from Southern Illinois University. His publications include academic journal and popular periodical articles and 12 books (one of these a re-titled paperback edition). His most recent non-fiction book is a biographical memoir about his close friend and collaborator, Gen. Oscar Koch, who was World War II intelligence chief for Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. Three of his five novels have been honored with Pushcart Prize nominations. Robert and Mary live in Champaign, Illinois. They have two sons and a grandson.”

Appraisal:

This reads like suspense or a thriller, with plenty of intense moments and more than enough tension between those peaks as you wonder what’s coming next. But underneath the tension is a message, or maybe just a lot of food for thought. It had me thinking about redemption. I started wondering how I’d react if faced with corruption from those who should be the least corrupt. How these things play out in a small town where everyone knows everybody else like where this story takes place may be different than we’d expect in a big city.

Along with an intense, thought provoking story, A Shallow River of Mercy has some interesting characters that draw the reader into the story. This starts with the protagonist, Ernst, but continues to more minor characters, like the truck drivers at the truck stop diner where some of the story takes place.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Small amount of adult language and content.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Monday, July 16, 2018

Reprise Review: All the Butterflies in the World by Rodney Jones



Genre: Fantasy/Time Travel/YA/Romance

Description:

“With her senior year looming, Tess McKinnon has two goals: hanging out with her best friend, Liz, and avoiding her judgmental, alcoholic mother. Then yummy John Bartley arrives—to tell Mrs. McKinnon that her daughter is dead. Distinctly still alive, Tess is baffled by John’s tales of 1800s time travel, rewritten lives, and love. She knows she’s never seen him before, but her feelings refuse to be denied.

When Tess and John discover an aged newspaper clipping that indicates John’s uncle was hanged for Tess’s murder in 1875, John decides to return to his time to save his uncle’s life. Not really sure she even believes in this time travel stuff, Tess checks the article after John leaves. The words have changed, and she is horrified to find that John has been hanged instead.

Armed with determination and modern ingenuity, Tess must abandon her past and risk her future for a chance to catch her own killer and find her first love for the second time.” 

Author:

Rodney Jones resides in Richmond, Indiana, where he spends his days pecking at a laptop. “His life-long ambition was to become an artist until he discovered a latent affinity for writing… In writing, the words are creating images, the images are telling a story, and the story evokes feelings…” His other interests include science, politics, travel, gardening, music, whiskey and chocolate.


Appraisal:

After the devastating turn of events in 1875 Greendale, John is beside himself with joy to find Tess alive and well in Wallingford during her own time, around 2009. Their re-introduction happens the same day and plays out practically the same way it did in The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains. John has his full memory of the time they spent together, Tess has no memory of knowing John or the events that unfolded when she was in 1875.

Unfortunately, John has to convince Tess he is not crazy and begin to reestablish his relationship with her. The chapters alternate between John’s point-of-view and Tess’s so we get a clear view of what they are thinking and feeling. We also get a good picture of Tess’s mother and Tess’s best friend, Liz, who ends up being her confidant. When John goes back to his time, in 1875, to rescue his uncle, he is not prepared for the danger this puts him in. In the meantime, Tess is busy contacting a coin collector to sell John’s old coins he earned working at the Grist Mill for his uncle. He also had in his possession his favorite book, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, which happened to be a first edition.

This story is the result of the Butterfly Effect that happens when events in the past are altered. It’s an interesting phenomenon to explore in fiction. Tess is a smart young girl with a lot of savvy. Taking steps into the past she is up for the challenge to change history. The turn of events at the end of this book caught me off-guard. It’s not very often that happens. Kudos to Rodney Jones for a wonderful adventure into the past.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

All the Butterflies in the World is the sequel to The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains. I would highly recommend reading book one first.

Added for Reprise Review: All the Butterflies in the World was a nominee in the Young Adult category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran January 17, 2015
Format/Typo Issues:

Even though I read an advanced reader copy, I found no significant proofing or formatting issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

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