Friday, September 21, 2018

Review: Secret Relations by Rebecca Forster



Genre: Police Procedural/Thriller

Description:

“They're illegal. They're undocumented. They're disappearing. The last thing Finn O'Brien wants is to come between his partner and her daughter, but Amber Anderson is desperate for his help. Her new boyfriend, an undocumented immigrant, is missing. Uneasy about keeping a secret from his partner and hindered by the prejudice and politics of the LAPD, Finn is tempted to turn a deaf ear to the girl's plea - until the first body is found. Fighting a system that wants to turn a blind eye, Finn tracks a serial killer who preys on the most vulnerable, one with a gruesome secret that has been buried under decades of shame. To stop him, Finn O'Brien must navigate a shadowy world where life is cheap - even his own.”

Author:

The author of numerous thrillers in multiple subgenres, USA Today bestseller Rebecca Forster lives in Los Angeles with her husband.

Appraisal:

This is the third book in this series. I raved about the first two and this latest installment is no different. LA police detective Finn O’Brien and his partner, Cori Anderson, are great characters. They have faults and at times make questionable decisions that show they’re imperfect, but both strive to make their city a better and safer place.

The story in Secret Relations is an intense thriller that had me on edge throughout. Much of the story is focused on the undocumented alien population, targeted by the serial killer, and I found the story thought provoking as I considered their situation.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI

While part of a series, each book in the Finn O’Brien Thriller series can be read as a standalone.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review: Love & Chocolate by Gail Cleare



Genre: Romance/Women’s Lit

Description:

“When Sarah Westwood’s deadbeat husband deserts her and their young son, she takes a job at her family’s restaurant, The Three Chocolatiers, working with her famous chef grandfather and her pastry chef cousin, Paisley. Determined to never fall for the wrong guy again, Sarah vows to stick to chocolate and steer clear of men, especially her delicious ice-cream supplier, Blake Harrison. But when Paisley signs her up for a dating site, Sarah is soon engaging in a sexy online flirtation with a stranger.

Blake Harrison wants nothing more than for Sarah to give him a chance, but all she’ll give him is the cold shoulder. Never one to run from a challenge, he works on becoming the kind of man Sarah can’t refuse. And since he just happens to be on the same dating site, he’s not above using a little cyber-intel to worm his way into her heart.

When Sarah’s grandfather collapses just weeks before an upscale chocolate-themed wedding that could make or break the business, the staff of The Three Chocolatiers is sent into a tailspin. With the pressure rising on personal and professional fronts, Sarah might just have to let someone sweet melt her defenses.”

Author:

“USA Today Bestselling author Gail Cleare used to write for newspapers, magazines, ad agencies, Fortune 50 companies and AOL. Now she writes fiction, and lives on an 18th century farm in Massachusetts with her family and dogs, cats, chickens, black bears, blue herons, rushing streams and wide, windy skies. When not on the computer, Gail is usually working in her organic vegetable garden or absorbed in nature photography. She can often be found stalking wild creatures with a 300 mm lens.”

To learn more please visit her website.

Appraisal:

Sarah Westwood has her professional persona under control. She is confident, well spoken, and a quick learner. Her personal life is quite the opposite. Her ex-husband pulled the rug out from under her and she crashed. Her family is well aware how emotionally fragile she is. They never miss a chance to try to bolster her with a bit too much praise, which she readily accepts. Her cousin Paisley, who is the pastry chef at their grandfather’s restaurant, set Sarah up a profile on a local dating site after a few too many bottles of wine between them. You know, just for some anonymous sexy fun, never intending to actually meet any men in person.

I thought the story started off strong with a lot of promise. Sarah could easily speak and flirt with Blake Harrison, who was part owner of an ice cream business with his brother, which supplied the restaurant with their signature ice cream. As manager of The Three Chocolatiers she dealt with him often. Then her personal relationship insecurities reared their ugly head when she started feeling an attraction to him, and now she bolts every time he comes near. Blake is ready for a serious relationship and not easily ignored. He recognizes what she is doing but doesn’t understand why.

Sarah develops a relationship with a man online who is sympathetic and easy to talk to as long as the situation is anonymous. Blake is a great guy and I got tired of her inner dialogue with her insecurities. Time and time again I wanted to slap some sense into her. I have little tolerance for that kind of crap from weak characters. It becomes an endless circle and I find that tiring.  

There are some interesting plot twists that will keep the reader involved. I found the characters well developed and the scenes put the reader right in the middle of the action. There were just a couple of plot points I didn’t buy. If you don’t mind reading stories about women needing rescuing, even if it is from themselves, you will enjoy this book.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

At the end of Love & Chocolate there are four recipes from The Three Chocolatiers Cookbook to be enjoyed.

Format/Typo Issues:

I didn’t run across any significant issues.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Monday, September 17, 2018



Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Coming of Age

Description:

“Learning new magic isn’t as easy as Zoe expected, especially when the mages at Gorgon University seem dead set against teaching. Add in some necessary late-night sneaking about, and Zoe is almost certain to be kicked out. As for exploring the intriguing mysteries across the border in Wendal, well, it has more teeth than she ever imagined.” 

Author:

“Maria Schneider grew up in New Mexico and currently lives near Austin, Texas with her husband.

After working in the computer industry for twelve years she now enjoys creating messes and inventing characters to find their way clear of her imaginings.

You can find several of Maria's short stories online in such fine magazines as: Coyote Wild Magazine, www.AnthologyBuilder.com, TownDrunkMag.com and Over My Dead Body.

She writes cozy mysteries, fantasy, paranormal mysteries.”

Feel free to check out her website or on Facebook.

Appraisal:

In this enchanting story, Zoe desires to learn more magic than her mother has been able to teach her so far. Her bumbling cousin Lonnie has managed a mage position at the castle in Birk. In one of Lonnie’s magic spells gone wrong, Zoe meets an irate female whose dragon essence has been bound by an enchanted ring. Zoe is familiar with Lonnie’s magic and is able to send her back to Wendal from which she came. Magic and sorcery had been outlawed in Wendal for thousands of years, it is the home for dragons and shifters.

One year later Zoe is in Mage School at the Gorgon University far away from her cousin Lonnie. But Zoe gets caught up in a conspiracy while trying to save a friend who was being kidnapped one evening. Zoe recognizes the dragon lady, Lindis, being forced to marry the friend who had been kidnapped. Zoe is again able to free her but is unable to escape the wolf warriors who showed up to save Lindis as well.

Lindis implores Zoe to unbind the magic in the ring. Zoe warns her messing with another wizard’s magic is a highly specific magic that can go terribly wrong. Zoe is wary and sure that she is not trained enough to attempt such a feat. Derrick, the wolf who captured Zoe, is ordered to guard and protect her at his house with the help of his pack.

The story is unique and delightful as Zoe attempts to teach herself, Lindis, and Derrick the intricacies of drawing glyphs and casting spells with the help of power crystals. The story is told from Zoe’s point-of-view, she is very naïve about the ways of the world and very verbose. It was fun getting caught up in her head as she reasoned things out. She was highly ethical and always determined to do what was right. The plot takes some unexpected turns as the conspiracy of gryphon origin and the ring are brought to light. There are dragons, eagles, and wolf shifters all vying for Zoe’s attention. I can’t wait to read the next book.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Dragons of Wendal by Maria E. Schneider was the winner in the Young Adult category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran February 17, 2015

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no issues with proofing or formatting in this story.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Review: The Killer Corset by Barbara Silkstone



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Historical/Humor/Young Adult

Description:

“When a Buckingham Palace lady-in-waiting is killed, Poppy Throckmorten is up to her crinolines helping her mentor, Florence Nightingale, solve the murder. But in tracking the clues, they uncover a plot to kill Queen Victoria herself!

Poppy must use all the detective skills she’s learned from Florence to foil the villains before the young monarch’s first meeting with her future husband, Prince Albert.”

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.


Appraisal:

It’s been three months since Florence Nightingale, Poppy Throckmorten, and Granny (Mrs. Throckmorten) have returned home from their last mystery. Florence receives another letter from Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria requires their service for a private matter. She especially mentions Poppy Throckmorten must attend as well. Granny jumps at the chance to join the girls’ as their guardian again.

As soon as they arrive at Buckingham Palace they are whisked straight to the Queen’s private parlor. It’s not long before the plot twists begin and continue to twist time and time again. As the mystery deepens it is not safe to walk the palace halls unattended. Moon, the footman Polly is smitten with, is never far away when she needs escorting. He also finds a private moment to profess his attraction to her. However, she is busy with the mysteries presented and she can hardly entertain a relationship with Moon until his social status is elevated. (Do you hear me, Queen Victoria?)

Florence has been called upon to apply her analytical instincts along with Poppy’s assistance to gather and explore the facts of a murder inside the palace walls. Poppy is learning from Ms. Nightingale by watching her dogged determination and attention to small details. Even Granny gets to stretch her acting wings, and does a brilliant job distracting by causing a ruckus at the dressmakers, giving Florence and Poppy time to snoop around. It’s all highly entertaining and smartly written. The reveal at the end is surprisingly complex with political ties. I think Queen Victoria will sleep a little easier.

I would be remiss not to mention the historical notes at the end of the book, which describes the real life characters in her story. However, Ms. Silkstone confesses she did take artistic liberties to create the story. The other supporting cast of the book are figments of her imagination.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The Killer Corset is book 2 of Barbara Silkstone’s, Florence Nightingale Comedy Mystery Series following, The Giggling Corpse. I do believe this book could be read as a standalone. However, some character development and nuances would be lost.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing errors, nothing that threw me out of the story.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Reprise Review: Wytchfire by Michael Meyerhofer




Genre: Epic Fantasy

Description:

Rowen was kicked out of his knight’s training only to find himself alone on the road. Several strange encounters later, which are too much to be just coincidences, and Rowen is looking to lead an army of gang members, knights and citizens against an army fortified with a ghoulish demon they call Nightmare and sorceresses. Rowen must rely on the people he meets along his quest to aid him and save the city of Lyos from crumbling.

Author:

Michael Meyerhofer also writes poetry, publishing five poetry chap books, and has won awards for his work. He enjoys weight lighting, medieval weapons and history. Meyerhofer current teaches at Ball State University. You can learn more about him at his website.

Appraisal:

In his acknowledgements, Meyerhofer refers to himself as a boyhood Tolkein fan. It’s obvious from reading Wytchfire where his inspirations came from by using multiple races that have to band together to fight a strong foe.

While the inspiration is there, Meyerhofer is able to make his own world using a rich history, reluctant heroes and a few surprises along the way

The book is the first of a trilogy and is set up that way. There isn’t a huge cliffhanger at the end, but more of the end of one battle while we know the rest of the war is ready to rage on.

Wytchfire may start off a bit slow, but the action picks up fairly quickly with Meyerhofer not dawdling too long to give the reader background information. He’s able to blend it into the story while continuing with the current action.

One of my favorite parts was the distinction of two strong female characters. They held their own against anyone who confronted them and were layered characters. My only gripe is that they are both, of course, easy on the eyes, which has to be noted by the men looking at them. It’s nice when I read a story where the men and women are described similarly without bringing beauty up when it comes to the women and not even mentioning that aspect when it comes to male characters.

However, Wytchfire is a great read for those who love epic fantasies – as I do. It certainly filled its role and feels like the start of a great adventure.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The first book of a trilogy.

Added for Reprise Review: Wytchfire by Michael Meyerhofer was a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran July 3, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Sooz

Approximate word count: 115,000-120,000 words

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Tempting Adam by Lyn Horner




Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense/World Mythology/Magical Realism

Description:

“He walked away from her once meaning to protect her and broke her heart.

Can she forgive him and overcome his stubborn resistance to love?

Guardian of Danu, Adam Dvorak has the power to make plants grow with a mere touch, but will he allow love to grow? An agronomist teaching better farming methods in a semi-desert region of northern Kenya, he has an accident and ends up in the local hospital where, to his shock, his former love Ellie Graham is a nurse. He’d never expected to see her again.

Ellie is equally shocked to see him. How could fate be so cruel, putting her in Adam’s path again? Her bruised heart tells her to avoid him, but circumstances dictate otherwise, and their mutual attraction soon flares to life. Will the temptation to accept Ellie as his mate conquer Adam’s fear for her? The High Guardian’s arrival and the pernicious Hellhounds may force him into a difficult decision as this saga builds toward a climax in the eighth and final book, A Might Chieftain.”

Author:

“Lyn Horner is a baby boomer born in San Francisco, California, raised in Minnesota and now residing in Texas with her husband and an ever-changing band of cantankerous, beloved cats. Trained in the visual arts, Lyn first worked as a fashion illustrator in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and later as an art instructor for Art Instruction Schools… After quitting work to raise her children, she took up writing to save her sanity. This hobby quickly morphed into an obsession with historical research and plot building.”

Learn more about Ms. Horner by visiting her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Adam Dvorak is a Guardian of Danu who has the power to make plants grow with a mere touch. He also understands the danger that comes with being a protector of his family’s ancient scroll. He has devoted his life to help desert area inhabitants develop profitable farm lands with their limited water supply. He is in Kenya in a remote village teaching and helping form crop terraces on the side of a small hill to increase crop yields. While in Kenya Adam is injured and knocked unconscious when moving a large boulder. Ikeno, his assistant and translator, and the farmer, Jebril, rush him to the nearest hospital.

Ellie Graham is a nurse in the small hospital. Two years ago Adam broke her heart by leaving her when he felt like being in a relationship with him could cause her harm. His intent was to protect her, but he wouldn’t or couldn’t explain to her why. When she recognizes Adam her heart is torn open again. She treats him while he is unconscious, but as soon as he awakens she changes schedules with another nurse to avoid speaking to him. However, he is crafty and sly and manages to find where she lives. He wants to apologize for the way he left her two years ago. Then he complicates their relationship again when he gets drunk and finds her at a tribal celebration with a man he doesn’t like. Yeah Adam is a mess, but a likeable character with baggage.

The plot is an emotional roller coaster as it twists and turns in unexpected ways. Ellie refuses to let Adam leave her behind again. However, she is in for a rude awakening when they are chased by the Hellhounds after Conn and Lara come to bring Adam back to the states to be with the rest of the guardians. Tension is ratcheted up as they are chased across the desert with very few places to hide. Back in the states the Hellhounds are quickly on their tail again, and are zeroing in on the Guardians’ hidey-hole. More hints are dropped about who has organized the Hellhounds. I also foresee that Lara will have some difficult decisions to make. The showdown between the Guardians and the Hellhounds is imminent. Better get ready to hold on tight.   

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Tempting Adam is book 7 in Lyn Horner’s Romancing the Guardians Series. This book does contain sexual situations that may offend some.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words

Friday, September 7, 2018

Review: How the World Ends (Book Two) by Rudolf Kerkhoven



Genre: Science Fiction/Post-Apocalyptic

Description:

“The world has already come to an end. Now Hayden and four others—who might very well be the last souls on Earth—must contend with the notion that it may not be possible to know what happened on the 14th of August, 2007. Regardless of reasons, and against astronomical odds, they survived. But can survival be a means unto itself? Because if not, the cruelest fate might just be their perseverance.”

Author:

The author of several novels, plus the co-author with Daniel Pitts of several choose-your-own-adventure books, Rudolf Kerkhoven lives in the Vancouver, British Columbia area.

For more, visit his website.


Appraisal:

Those who read book one in this series will remember that it mainly dealt with the world (or at least the people in the world) mostly coming to an end. The small band of survivors were mainly focused on short term survival. In this volume, they’ve settled in, and the focus changes. For example, what worked to get food before (scavenging from stores and abandoned houses) isn’t going to work forever. Now that the immediate scare is over we’ve also got conflict and unresolved issues between the characters that are coming to the forefront. And then there is that mountain off in the distance that wasn’t there before. What’s going on here?

I find books like this to be a vicarious adventure, trying to figure out the solution to the problems they encounter along with the book’s characters. This series is built on a unique premise which has made figuring things out that much more challenging.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language and mild adult themes.

This is the second book in a series. While I think it could be read as a standalone, ideally a reader would read the first book first to fully understand what had happened to get the characters to this point.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Reprise Review: Scorched Earth by Lynne Cantwell



Genre: Urban Fantasy/Contemporary/World Mythology

Description:

“Sue faces the biggest challenge of her career: she has three weeks to raise millions of dollars for research into a supergrain that promises to end world hunger. But ayalendo has some distressing -- even dangerous -- qualities. And Lucifer means to exploit them to control the world’s food supply and become a god at last.

When Tess learns the identity of the shady corporation pushing ayalendo’s development, she realizes her own livelihood may be in jeopardy. She and Darrell embark on a cross-country journey to her parents’ farm to gather information for a congressional committee investigating the ayalendo project.
The gods are bringing in some big guns to help. But it will be up to Sue, Tess, and Darrell to defeat Lucifer, once and for all.”

Author:

“Lynne Cantwell is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited where she shares her knowledge about Indie publishing and promotion. She has a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University and is a former broadcast journalist who has written for CNN and Mutual/NBC Radio News, among other places. Ms. Cantwell currently lives near Washington, DC.”

You can connect with her at her website or on her Facebook page.

Appraisal:

Ms. Cantwell really surprised me with this series. She managed to get me interested in the political workings of our legislature using intrigue and underhanded politics. Setting up scenarios and relating how they realistically affect people’s lives and livelihoods when politicians get greedy. This plot revolves around Lucifer’s end game. He has been trying to gain enough followers to ascend to godhood and so far the gods have succeeded in keeping him out. In Crosswind he used race and religion to gain followers. In Undertow he used Americans’ fear of terrorists, and so far Tess, Darrell, and Sue, with their gods backing and insight, have been able to thwart Lucifer’s plans. In Scorched Earth, he seeks to control a new supergrain that could end world hunger with devastating consequences.

The plot moves swiftly as our trio of heroes uncover Lucifer’s plot. Tess and Sue both have personal stakes in the outcome, as well as the rest of humanity. Ms. Cantwell has done an excellent job weaving her story, which has a global impact, to relate it on a personal level. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story was brought full circle, bringing it together with The Pipe Woman Chronicles. I had hopes as the story was unfolding that this would come to pass and Ms. Cantwell did not disappoint me. I do hate to see this series end and I am hoping these characters are still talking to the author so we will get more from them in the future. Well done, Ms. Cantwell. This has been a wonderful, unique series.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This is the third and final book in the Land, Sea, Sky series. Ms. Cantwell has included a synopsis for Crosswind and Undertow at the beginning of this book.  However, I think it would be beneficial to read both prior to reading Scorched Earth to fully understand all the characters.

Added for Reprise Review: Scorched Earth by Lynne Cantwell was a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran June 16, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

I noticed no significant errors in editing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: Learn Me Goodest by John Pearson


Note: This is the second installment of a doubleshot review. If you missed it, look at last Friday's take on the same book from ?wazithinkin.


Genre: Humor

Description:

“First there was Learn Me Good, the (sort of, kind of, mostly) true story about a first year teacher learning the ropes. Next came Learn Me Gooder, the story of an experienced teacher who should know better making first-year teacher mistakes. Now, as the third book in the series, Learn Me Goodest enshrines the series alongside beloved and revered trilogies like Star Wars, The Godfather, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Jack Woodson, the engineer-turned-teacher (and future Dancing with the Stars champion), is back for another school year's worth of emails with his pal and former colleague, Fred Bommerson. Join Jack as he navigates the tricky maze of overly-distracted students, administrators with bullhorns, and a wife dealing with her own classroom situations.”

Author:

After being laid off from his job as an engineer, John Pearson made a drastic career change and became an elementary school teacher. His initial year of teaching provided material for his first book, Learn Me Good. Its popularity among Kindle owners convinced Pearson that just one book with a grammatically incorrect title wasn’t enough. Hence, he released the sequel Learn Me Gooder and now expands the series into a trilogy with Learn Me Goodest.

Pearson lives in Texas and is proud of attending both Duke and Texas A&M universities. (Insert your favorite Aggie joke here.) For more, visitPearson’s blog.

Appraisal:

Like John Pearson, the author of this book, his fictional alter-ego Jack Woodson has had a career change. Each were once engineers, but then became elementary school teachers. This book follows the same format as the prior books in the series, formatted as a series of emails from Woodson to his former co-worker Fred Boomerson who apparently then discusses the contents of Woodson’s reports to the rest of the crew at Woodson’s old employer and let’s Woodson know their reaction.

My description doesn’t do justice to this format and how humorous it is. If you’ve been a parent or grandparent of elementary school age kids or at least have vague memories of being that age yourself, you’ll find lots to laugh at in this book. (If you don’t fit any of those categories, you’ll still laugh, just not as much.)

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Although the third in the series and there might be a small benefit in having read the prior books, this book can also be read as a standalone.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words