Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Julia’s Dilemma by Lyndsey Carter



Genre: Romance/Young Adult

Description:

“Julia is content with her no frills - no thrills life consisting of long, cubicled days as an accountant, and lonely nights spent watching her favorite soap opera, as she edges ever closer to her thirties.

Between constant self-comparisons with her married friends, a romantically traumatic past, endless bouts of self-deprecatory thoughts, and resentful exchanges with a domineering mother highly critical of her non-existent love life, she can't help but feel a tinge of apathy at the idea of romance...

Following a fateful accident, she crosses paths with Matt, a handsome, mysterious biker with biting sarcastic wit, and the irresistible charm of a serpentine tongue. There is an initial tingle of interest, but she fears a relationship with him might end in even more sunken depths of despair.

Can he prove to her that all men are not the same, as she learns to trust again? Will she open herself up to the possibility of a romance? Or is she just getting her hopes up as usual...”

Author:

I found no information on Lyndsey Carter aside from the fact she has one other book published on Amazon.

Appraisal:

Julia is a mess. She’s not really happy with her job as an accountant, but finds consistency and logic in numbers. Her life is boring because she is afraid to put herself out there. She lives in her head criticizing herself and others. She has a best friend, but only calls her if she needs or wants something from her. I don’t think that is the way friends treat other. Julia’s Dilemma is supposed to be a romantic comedy, but I found very little funny about Julia or her situation.

One day on a rush to get home after work she steps into the path of a cyclist named Matt. The book’s description calls Matt a biker, which is misleading and a little less exciting. At any rate Matt seems like a great guy with a sarcastic wit. Julia seems to try to sabotage this budding relationship. I honestly felt like she needed to be on antidepressants. As the story moves forward I did become invested in Matt’s story, which is slowly doled out in bits and pieces. All along I felt like Julia’s dilemma was just her mental state. But NO; a bombshell drops at the end of this story with a-hell-of-a cliffhanger. Which is Julia’s true dilemma.
Have I mentioned I hate cliffhangers before?

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The book cover is also misleading. That killer hand of four aces has nothing to do with this story. The fairytale background in soft shades of blue partly cloudy sky with trees and kite? Well, I suppose Matt took Julia to the local park on a date.

Format/Typo Issues:

The only significant error I found was a mixing up of names at least once in this book.

Rating: ** Two Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Reprise Review: Grown Up Christmas List by Donna Fasano



Genre: Romance/Novella

Description:

“Book 5 of the Ocean City Boardwalk Series, where life isn’t just fun in the sun—there’s love waiting on those sandy shores!

Dina Griffin flees a dangerous situation and ends up in Ocean City, Maryland where she hopes to spend the holidays in hiding. Trusting no one, she wants only one thing this Christmas—to feel safe. Then Officer Gav Thomas threatens to arrest her for shoplifting. Shoplifting?

Gav is certain there’s something Dina isn’t telling him about her visit to his seaside town, so he devises a means to stick close to the vulnerable beauty. An unexpected attraction sparks, fierce enough to heat up the salt-tinged, wintry nights.

But the trouble Dina had hoped to escape arrives at her doorstep, bringing with it stark-raving fear and the realization that she must place her trust in someone.
Is Gav really just a local cop… or is he Dina’s guardian angel?”

Author:

Donna Fasano is a multi-award winning author whose accolades include “a two-time winner of Best Romance of the Year given by BigAl's Books & Pals Review Blog. Her books have sold 4 million copies worldwide and have been published in two dozen languages. Her novels have made the Kindle Top 100 Paid List numerous times, climbing as high as #1.”

You can visit her at her website, and Facebook.

Appraisal:

This story is set in Ocean City, Maryland and part of Ms. Fasano’s An Ocean City Boardwalk Series, though indirectly connected by location only. When we first meet Dina Griffin the reader is given the impression she is homeless. This is not the case. However she is in hiding. I love the way Ms. Fasano lays out her stories to draw the reader in. The story arc is realistic with an air of mystery. The dialogue between the characters is rational and engaging. Dina tries to be as honest as she can without revealing too much about herself for her own protection. She has good reason to be leery of Officer Gav Thomas and, handsome as he may be, he is still an officer of the law.

The plot unwinds at a nice pace as Gav helps Dina get a job at The Sunshine Café and engages Dina in a project he has at work gathering donations for the annual holiday toy drive. Even as Dina grows more comfortable with Gav, she’s reluctant to share her secret. With Gav’s patience and persistence he’s able to slowly get past some of Dina’s walls. Unfortunately, Gav happens to be out of town when the plot takes a nasty turn on Christmas Eve and Dina considers running again.

I think everyone will find this Christmas addition to An Ocean City Boardwalk Series heartfelt with some humorous delights.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
             
FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: This review is from LOVE, CHRISTMAS 1Box set of Holiday stories that will put a song in your heart! Original review ran October 17, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: File Size: 298 KB
Print Length: 167 pages

Monday, November 26, 2018

Review: Xmas Elf: Secret Agent by Aaron Frale



Genre: Christmas

Description:

“As one of Santa’s Elite Fixers, Jing spends most of his time waterboarding greedy toy manufacturers or responding to terrorists holding Rudolph for ransom. While not on the job, he relaxes in the North Pole, a paradise where he can forget all the killing and bloodshed and curl up to some Christmas music and hot cocoa.

Until a rogue group of elves betrays Santa and threatens what should have been a pleasant Christmas.

Every time a bell rings, an elf gets his Glock.”

Author:

“Aaron Frale writes Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy usually with a comedic twist. Time Burrito is the audience favorite. He also hosts the podcast Aaron's Horror Show and screams and plays guitar for the prog/metal band Spiral. He lives with his wife, his son, and two cats in the frozen tundra of Minnesota.”

Appraisal:

Imagine a hardcore book or movie of some kind. Maybe a mashup of spy story and something with a crime family like The Godfather. Then swap out most of the characters with Santa, Mrs Santa, a few reindeer, and elves. Last, make it funny. (Yeah, that step with the elves pretty much got you to funny already.) What you’ve got is Xmas Elf: Secret Agent. After reading this, you’ll never view Santa and Christmas the same.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

I believe the version I received was an advance reader copy that might (and should have) received additional proofing prior to publication. Given this assumption I can’t judge the final version and my rating doesn’t take any proofing issues into account. I hope additional proofing was done. If not, those sensitive to homonym errors will especially be cringing.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Friday, November 23, 2018

Review: Blood Instincts by Marie Lavender



Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Description:

“Enter the Other World at your own risk…

What if you found out that you weren’t exactly…human?

Myah Sullivan is suddenly living that nightmare. There are Others in the world, dangerous, supernatural creatures that make her mind spin and cause her to question the reality she’s always known.

Oliver King is her savior, a vampire who tries to show her the way. Through her journey she learns far more than she ever thought she would about herself, and about the past. Soon, she discovers that there is so much more to meeting Oliver than mere happenstance.

Can Myah accept her new reality, or will she retreat into that normal, safe world she once thought was her own?”

Author:

Marie Lavender is a multi-award winning author who writes in several genres. She lives in the Midwest with her  family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years.

For more, visit Ms. Lavender’s website.

Appraisal:

Blood Instincts is set in the future world much like our own. Desiree, from book one, Second Nature, experiences a clairvoyant dream, which sets the tone of this story.

Myah Sullivan is twenty-five, and believes herself to be a strong independent human woman. Despite being orphaned at age nine and raised by her aunt and grandfather. She’s finished college and has an uneventful job as an accountant. Myah is comfortable where she is at in her life. Until she meets Oliver King, a vampire, who is an artist in the human world. He senses something special about Myah, something “Other,” but can’t pinpoint what exactly. He is smitten instantly, and decides to help her understand this new world of “Others” that is opening up to her as her own powers awaken.

Oliver is a perfect teacher. He can sense what she’s feeling, and knows what she needs before she does. He tries to stay in teacher mode, however, he is finding it hard not to make the transition to lover before she is ready. I suppose it is normal for Myah to be plagued with doubts about all this newness to everything around her, but come on! Her doubts and vacillations drove me to the edge of my tolerance. I feel like it slowed the plot down and became too repetitious.

Blood Instincts has an interesting storyline which is told through differing viewpoints and several emotional twists. The plot dragged for me when it got too wordy. Also, some of the plot twists presented as, “oh, by the way, this happened earlier.” I found irksome.

The characters are well developed and I did feel invested in the story. The bedroom scenes are graphic, well written, and consuming. The twist at the end foreshadows the next book well, and it’s evident that Myah is a more than she ever dreamed.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Blood Instincts is book 2 in Marie Lavender’s, Blood at First Sight Series. Following book 1, Second Nature. If graphic love scenes disturb you this book may not be for you.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 110-115,000 words

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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



Genre: Non-Fiction

Description:

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

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

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

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

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

Author:

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

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

Appraisal:

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

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

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing misses.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Monday, November 19, 2018

Reprise Review: Brittle Shadows by Vicki Tyley



Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Description:

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

Author:

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

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

Appraisal:

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

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

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

Format/Typo Issues:

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

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: Gangster Walk by Melissa Bowersock



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Paranormal/Ghosts

Description:

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

Author:

“Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: biography, contemporary, western, action, romance, fantasy, paranormal and spiritual. She has been both traditionally and independently published and is a regular contributor to the superblog Indies Unlimited. She has a tattoo on the inside of her left wrist that says IMAGINE. In her next life, she plans to be an astronaut. She lives in a small community in northern Arizona with her husband and an Airedale terrier. She also writes under the pen name Amber Flame.”

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

Appraisal:

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

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

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

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

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

Format/Typo Issues:

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

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Review: The Unstoppables: Food Police by Demetrius Sherman



Genre: Satire

Description:

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

Author:

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

Appraisal:

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

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

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

Serious proofreading issues.

Rating: ** Two Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Monday, November 12, 2018

Reprise Review: Her Fake Romance by Donna Fasano



Genre: Romance

Description:

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

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

Author:

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

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

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

Appraisal:

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

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

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK  

FYI:

Steamy and adult situations, but no explicit sex.

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

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant errors.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Friday, November 9, 2018

Review: The Cheeky Coroner by Barbara Silkstone



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Historical/Humor/Young Adult

Description:

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

Author:

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

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

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

Appraisal:

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

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

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

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

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

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words