Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: MENy Calculations by J. Alfa Mais



Genre: Non-Fiction/Self-Help

Description:

“MENy Calculations: Win Divorce & Custody Before You Step Into Court (Vol. 1), savagely arms guys with valuable insight, help and tips for messy divorces and how to strategically win in court. This dynamic book delivers practical divorce help for men through a surprisingly simple and groundbreaking approach in only 80 pages. This book is for all men - not just fathers seeking child custody and works in every unique divorce.

Every day, millions of great men are losing it all, great fathers are losing custody and great dads are being alienated from their kids. A few years ago, divorce knocked me down. But I got up much stronger and wiser - having recorded the lessons I learned.”

Author:

J. Alfa Mais describes himself as a “Savagely Curious CUSStodial Father, Blogger and BestSelling Author.” Obviously, he likes uppercase letters. The blog he alludes to can be found here.

Appraisal:

To be fair I should point out upfront that I read this out of curiosity, not a need for the book’s advice. I received it to read for potential review and it was short enough that the time commitment wouldn’t be much. I’m lucky that the hassles of divorce, custody decisions, and the like are well behind me, but I have been there and I’ve observed and advised others a time or two as well. I’m not an expert and, to be fair, from the normal standpoint of what would make an expert in this area, neither is the author. But he doesn’t need to be. I’ll explain.

When I first started reading the advice contained in this guide it felt like the advice was pushing the man to be too aggressive and confrontational (and this is definitely aimed at men, not women, in the custody battle equation). But as it went on, it felt like the tone changed to what I’d call the right one, evaluating what is best for the kids involved and how to best approach helping your attorney make the case to the judge for that answer, which is ultimately what everyone concerned should be aiming for. Looking for a fight isn’t the answer. Being ready for a fight if one comes to you or if that’s what is required to get the best results for your kids, is the answer. Ultimately, that’s what this book is aiming to help you determine. If that’s something you need advice about, this book could be helpful.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 10-15,000 words

Monday, February 25, 2019

Reprise Review: Machines of Eden by Shad Callister



Genre: Science Fiction

Description:

Set in a post-apocalyptic world of constant warfare where the Grays (the establishment) leverage technology and the Greens (the seething masses) make do with what they can steal and re-purpose. A brilliant scientist has created an island paradise aptly named, Eden, to act as a model new beginning for humanity. But the scientist’s assistant goes wacko, reprograms the AI computer and plans to use the technology on Eden to re-purpose the whole surface of the earth by using nanotechnology to turn everything man made into potting compost.

Author:

Shad Callister splits his time between the mountains of Utah and the rivers of northern Alabama. Machines of Eden is his debut novel.

Appraisal:

The book’s opening indicates that the war is finally over and our exhausted hero, John Fletcher, hitches a ride home on a transport flight. The flight is diverted, attacked, and John awakes, battered and bruised, on a tropical island beach.

From here, he penetrates the compound containing the AI computer controlling Eden and learns about the doomsday plans. Of course, there is a ticking clock, and our hero has to overcome enormous odds, both physical and intellectual, if he’s to save the world.

Nanotechnology, super computers, Artificial Intelligence, cyborgs, robots. Yep, this story has them all. Now don’t expect to get to know the characters in depth, or to get a visceral feeling for the settings. This book isn’t about those things. It’s about action. And when you’re riding a high-speed roller coaster, you don’t have time to take in the scenery.

I enjoyed the heck out of this read. The science is informed enough to make sense. The doomsday scenario is logical. Our hero can do more damage with a screwdriver and ring-spanner than anyone could possibly want. The crazy people add spice, and most enjoyable, the AI computer, Eve, is beautifully written and a lot of fun.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Machines of Eden by Shad Callister was a nominee in the Speculative Fiction category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran February 5, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

None noted.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 75,000-80,000 words

Friday, February 22, 2019

Reprise Review: The Secret Files of Hugo and Victoria by J.E. (Buck) Buchanan



Genre: Noir/Paranormal/Satire

Description:

“At last, a novel that seeks to answer the age-old question of whether a hardboiled private eye writer and a goody-two-shoes vampiress-in-denial can find redemption and true happiness.”

Author:

A former member of law enforcement in Florida, Buck Buchanan now works as a law enforcement consultant as well as having his finger in several writerly pursuits, including editing, conducting writers’ workshops, and writing crime fiction.

Appraisal:

Hugo Rongg is a “private eye writer” (think of your favorite “hardboiled detective”) who drives a “classic Yugo.” Victoria Station is a sexy dame with a “little genetics problem”; specifically she’s a vampire who falls hard for Hugo and, with his guidance, hopes to become a private eye writer, too. The Secret Files … satirizes two genres, both noir (the genre of the hardboiled detective) and the paranormal genre with vampires, werewolves, and such creatures, especially the hybrids. Can you guess the difference between a vampig and a hampire?

Relatively short, I read straight through The Secret Files … laughing constantly. For a few examples of things that tickled my funny bone, it makes fun of the language of the hardboiled detective, i.e., “The joint had been tossed, trashed, rifled… you know, searched” and the silly nicknames often hung on villains in those novels, “Nickel is Dime’s half-brother …” At times I got the feeling that despite my constant laughter that there were many jokes sneaking past me. For example, there was a subtle political statement that I almost missed and a little dig at those who are too dogmatic about religion. If you’re into satire, especially if you like the genres being satirized and don’t mind a little fun being poked at them, The Secret Files … should be a perfect fit. I’ll leave you with one more quote. This is for the paranormal fans:

“My head spun. I’d just learned I had vampire, witch, and werewolf blood in my veins and a parrot for a grandfather. Talk about a bad heir day.”

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: The Secret Files of Hugo and Victoria by J.E. (Buck) Buchanan was a nominee in the Humor and Satire category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran June 1, 2012

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: Spiral: A Catalyst for Innovation and Expansion by Amy Simpkins



Genre: Self-Help

Description:

“Has the road to your dream been paved in disappointment? Do you feel like you’re always taking one step forward and two steps backward? MIT-trained astronautical engineer and renewable energy CEO Amy Simpkins has seen both the scientific and the aesthetic sides of life's cyclical nature. After teaching her concepts to business leaders throughout the world, she's honed a repeatable process for harnessing the world's inherent ebb and flow and designing your most fulfilling, high-impact work.

Spiral: A Catalyst for Innovation and Expansion teaches you how to build your business on your own terms while working with natural cycles instead of fighting against them. Through Simpkins' powerful insights, you'll learn how to embrace creativity and innovation to achieve your greatest potential. By marrying business and personal development, her book will finally let you stop zigging and zagging to dream big and implement your best ideas.

In Spiral, you’ll discover:

Analogies from engineering and physics that will help you fuse structure and creativity

Instructive, real-world stories from both the author’s career and her clients’ experiences

How to harness the natural rhythms of life so you can thrive in business no matter the cycle

How to use your natural flow states to ease you and your business into the next phase

The importance of embracing the spiral as you pursue your greatest ambitions, and much, much more!

Spiral is an inspiring whole-person approach to business growth. If you like mind-blowing self-help, simple yet powerful tools, and resources that guide you when life isn’t straight and narrow, then you’ll love Amy Simpkins ’ masterful book!”

Author:

“Amy Simpkins has an engineer's brain and a poet's heart. Her life's work has been centered around the integration of seemingly unrelated things and the subsequent solution of wickedly hard problems.

Ms. Simpkins is a speaker, author, and thought leader in innovation. She facilitates massive leaps forward by helping individuals and organizations with big ideas make connections they've been missing. She believes that innovation is for everyone and holds the key to both personal fulfillment and lasting global change. She has been helping innovators implement their ideas since 2013.”

Appraisal:

While largely aimed at inspiring or leading you to find the inspiration to be innovative in building a new business of some kind, the concepts in Spiral could apply to your personal life, a hobby, or anywhere in your world where a little innovation, creativity, and fresh ideas might improve the situation. This review will have to be vague, since the alternative would be to repeat the whole book, but I’ll say the concept that provides the foundation of the book is interesting. It will have you thinking and, most importantly, re-thinking how you view certain seemingly opposite things.

The author makes some points that many of us would be prone to disagree with or resist, but she has a way of making her case with irrefutable logic, such that I found myself recognizing that my first instincts were wrong. Through this process you’ll recognize and discover skills you didn’t know you had and through applying these skills, hopefully find the way to go beyond anything you’ve been able to accomplish before. That’s the goal of the book and, if that sounds like something you’d like to do, read it and see if it helps you do so. I’m betting it does.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Monday, February 18, 2019

Review: Bordello Walk by Melissa Bowersock



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Ghosts/Native American Spirituality

Description:

“Jerome, Arizona, is known as the most haunted town in the state. In its history as an old west mining town, it endured explosions, cave-ins, fires, and the usual consequences of rampant prostitution, gambling and gunfights. It experienced enough mayhem to generate countless ghosts, which is exactly why medium Sam Firecloud does not want to go there. When he and partner Lacey Fitzpatrick get a call to eradicate a ghost from an old bordello, there’s more at stake than simply freeing a tortured soul. Sam’s own soul could also be in danger.”

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:

I know I have said this before, but I believe this might be my newest favorite story in A LACEY FITZPATRICK and SAM FIRECLOUD MYSYTERY SERIES. Not only do we get to experience some of Jerome’s history and learn a bit about the bordellos, we also get to meet some of its residents, past and present. You can tell Ms. Bowersock had fun with some of the names. There are some humorous scenes in the first half of the story as Sam and Lacey gather information. However. Sam’s walks seem to take an extreme amount of stress on him.

What sets this story apart and above the previous additions to this series is the serious note that Sam and Lacey’s trip takes when they stop at the Navajo reservation on their way home. It’s this type of inclusion of Sam’s and Lacey’s personal life that makes this series so great. The ghost stories are interesting, sometimes horrific, and sometimes heartwarming. But it’s Sam Firecloud, his kids, and Lacey Fitzpatrick who carry the series. I would love to live next-door to them.

If you haven’t started reading this series you are missing out. I highly recommend it for cozy mystery readers who may enjoy a little otherworldliness in their stories as well.   

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Bordello Walk is book seventeen 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: 35-40,000 words

Friday, February 15, 2019

Review: V.Q.E. by Vivek Gumaste



Genre: Memoir

Description:

“In 1980, after completing medical school in India, a young Indian physician lands in Britain in pursuit of his dream to get to the United States.  He is young, a full 26-year-old, ambitious and opinionated. The two and half years that he spent in Britain prior to coming to the United States prove to be eventful years and this book captures that period

The narrative is set in Great Britain of the early 1980's and comprises a medley of experiences: of a young, nationalist Indian coming to the land of his colonial masters, a new medical graduate negotiating the travails of an international medical career and of an objective spectator looking down upon this once great power. Thrown into this unlikely cocktail is the political backdrop of Britain in the 80, s- the rise of Margaret Thatcher, the Royal Wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, the Falkland War and racism.”

Author:

“The author is an academic and political commentator based in the United States. Passionate about India, he is an avid writer and has written several op-eds and columns for mainstream Indian newspapers like the New Indian Express, the Hindustan Times, the Sunday Guardian and the Pioneer. In addition he is a regular columnist for the popular news portal, Rediff and blogs on Huffington Post (India).”

Appraisal:

Memoirs are an interesting genre in that they can take so many forms and appeal to their target reader for so many reasons. Some readers prefer memoirs by someone famous and not at all like them, whereas others like to read about a normal person who happened to have some interesting experiences. Some would prefer to read about someone a lot like themselves while other readers see the memoir as a way to better understand someone from a different country, culture, or otherwise different from the reader. For me V.Q.E. solidly fit in that last category.

The author, a relatively new doctor and native of India, wants to move to the US. He determines his best chance of accomplishing that is moving first to the UK where he’ll get more work and pass some professional testing. This approach will both provide more experience, making him more appealing to potential employers in the US, and also improve his odds of being approved by US immigration authorities. The struggle to prepare for and hopefully pass the tests is obviously one of the primary conflicts throughout the story.

Vivek’s employment, which consists of a series of short-term assignments in different parts of the UK, keeps the stress level and intensity of the story high in several different ways. His work environment, living arrangements, and job duties are constantly changing. He’s continually applying for the next temporary position, in danger of being out of work which also would mean nowhere to live since living arrangements (typically a dorm like room hid away somewhere on a hospital campus) are provided by the employer. Then we have the historical backdrop of the UK in the 80s which might provoke nostalgia for those old enough to remember things like the Falklands War and wedding bells ringing for Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Overall, I found V.G.E. to be both entertaining and enlightening in the glimpse it gave me into a different culture and way of life.

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Review: Snow by Mikayla Elliot



Genre: Paranormal/Time Travel

Description:

“Taken from all she has ever known and loved, Neva finds herself swept into a world of vampires where she learns she will determine their future. Yet she quickly discovers she is the target of a vampire, Zachariah, seeking to stop her from altering the vampire lineage. She must decide which path she will take while trying to protect the family she left behind, and discovering a past she cannot escape.”

Author:

“Mikayla Elliot is an avid reader and writer of fantasy novels. She is a single parent to two beautiful children and their rambunctious corgi, Sheila, living in Atascocita, Texas. When Mikayla isn't creating new worlds and adventures she spends her time working as a Planner in the energy industry, which has unveiled various landscapes in multiple states for site visits. Mikayla holds a Bachelor's in Business Management from the University of Phoenix, and feels the debt deep in her soul and pockets.”

To learn more about Ms. Eliot please visit her website or visit herFacebook page.

Appraisal:

With a dramatic and gruesome start Neva begins describing, in purple prose, how she was turned into a vampire by Thedryk as he tried to save her. The purple prose continues as Ms. Eliot sets up her world. Mostly told through Neva’s eyes. Her white aura reveals she is a chosen one and Thedryk has been following her for centuries.

Ms. Eliot has developed a new unique vampire story. It takes a while to get into, but it is intriguing. So if you can get past the purple prose you will enjoy this story. There are many supporting characters who are introduced who add tension and drive the story forward. Emotion runs high as Neva comes face to face with a reality she never dreamed could happen.

As this is a trilogy there is a larger story arc that continues past the end of this book. However, this story comes to a satisfying closure. If you are looking for a new vampire story that breaks free from typical vampire trope this might be the book for you. As long as you can tolerate the purple prose that adds far too many descriptive words, which is why I gave this book the rating I did.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Snow is book 1 in Mikayla Elliot’s Black Ice Trilogy.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Monday, February 11, 2019

Reprise Review: Vlad to the Bone by Beth Orsoff



Genre: Chick-Lit

Description:

This continuing saga of Alex and Gwen picks up two years after Vlad All Over ends. Alex and Gwen seem to have found a way to put their animosity aside for the sake of their son, David. They have joint custody worked out, perhaps a little too well, according to Gwen’s new boyfriend Robert. When it becomes necessary for Gwen to return to Romania because of her claim as a legitimate heir to Vlad Tepes, old habits return and animosity takes another hold.

Author:

When Beth’s parents told her they didn’t send her to college to be a professional lifeguard, she moved to California and enrolled in USC Law School to become an entertainment lawyer. She also became a regular attendee of the UCLA Extension Writers Program workshops. She lives in Los Angeles with her daughter. 

To find out more about Beth visit her web site and read the author interview she gave here at Books and Pals with BigAl.

Appraisal:

I was quickly drawn into this fascinating and multi-layered story line, honestly how do authors come up with this stuff? Beth Orsoff was able to capture Gwen’s and Alex’s complex personalities perfectly as well as all the supporting characters. The story never lags and gets quite racy at times, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found the relationship between Gwen and her best friend Zoe was one of my favorites. Their conversations were realistic and humorous. Zoe was a steadfast, honest friend Gwen could always depend on.

The journey that Alex and Gwen were on was a hard one, I sympathized with both characters. Alex was the perfect alpha male who would take charge and thought he always knew the best way to handle any situation. It was difficult for me to watch when he got scared. I would not want to be the one to oppose him, he was ruthless. Gwen never hesitated to oppose him, she was as strong willed and proud as he was. As a result, she would make decisions just to spite Alex, not really taking her or her son’s best interest into consideration. Her pride was a problem for me.

The children in this story I felt were captured very well. Isabella is now a sassy ten year-old and David an adorable two year-old. The well-being of both was in the forefront of everything Gwen did concerning her and Alex’s joint custody of David. It was interesting to watch how she and Alex handled the kids and the single-parent dating scene. Since the story is mainly told through Gwen’s point of view, we mainly saw how she handled it with her boyfriend Robert (Dr. Bob) and only one of Alex’s girlfriends, Brianna, who was the latest and most serious.
The twists in the plot about Gwen’s claim to Vlad Tepe’s blood line drove the plot forward in interesting ways. I found them captivating and compelling. It is clear how Ms. Orsoff’s storytelling skills are growing as well as her understanding of the human condition. I will not hesitate to buy her future books; they are always creative and unique.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This book contains adult language and sexual situations that may be offensive to some.

This is a sequel to the book Vlad All Over. That book should be read first for an adequate understanding of the backstory to the events in Vlad to the Bone.

Added for Reprise Review: Vlad to the Bone by Beth Orsoff was a nominee in the Chick Lit category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran January 17, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no errors or issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Friday, February 8, 2019

Review: Atom Bomb to Santa Claus by Trevor Homer



Genre: Trivia

Description:

“Three cheers for the ingenious, inventive, United States of America!

From the kitchen to the office to outer space, America has been at the forefront of the advances of the human race for the last two centuries. It's given birth to more new products, devices, medicines, leisure pursuits, sports, musical genres, and vehicles than any other country or people ancient or modern. More Nobel prize winners come from these shores than the next five countries combined.

Atom Bomb to Santa Claus celebrates the country's pioneering drive by describing some of its greatest innovations and some of its greatest – and most surprising – inventors. It challenges the imagination to know that the same country that gave the world the artificial heart and e-mail, also originated sliced bread and Chinese fortune cookies. Guaranteed to entertain and enlighten, Atom Bomb to Santa Claus is an amazing chronicle of some of America's most important and imaginative creations.”

Author:

“Trevor Homer was born and educated in the industrial Midlands of England and is a former British Amateur Champion golfer who represented England and Britain 28 times. Homer is the author of The Book of Origins which was translated into six languages and sold to eleven countries. He is also the author of Born in the USA which was published in the USA by Skyhorse of New York. Married with two sons and three grandsons, Homer now lives in South Staffordshire. This book is based on a lifelong obsession with obscure facts, and a deep admiration of the great democratic experiment which is the United States of America.”

Appraisal:

If you’re into history, interested in knowing some back story of how inventions and innovations came to be, and a bit of a trivia buff, have I got a book for you. Some of these things you probably know about, for example I knew Thomas Edison had helped harness electricity and invented the lightbulb, but other things might be new even on subjects you know. (If I ever knew General Electric Corporation was founded by Edison, I’d forgotten.) The author is British and in some instances his viewpoint might be interesting, seeing how a foreigner perceives something the originated in the US or how what reached the UK was subtly different from the original. For example, the discussion of a dance called the Okey Cokey confused me. Then I realized that the name of what I think of as the Hokey Pokey (yeah, the one where you put you right foot in) goes by a few slightly different names in different areas. If you’ve got a thirst for trivial knowledge, this is a fun read.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Review: 50 Herbs and Spices of Love by Terry Demcloshoff




Genre: Humor/Erotica/Short Story

Description:

“When Heather finds out her boyfriend is cheating again, she does the only sensible thing she can think of. She orders fried chicken!”

Author:

From Terry Demcloshoff’s Amazon Author page, “A fighter pilot by day, food porn author by night, Terry Demcloshoff is a man of action, mystery and fine dining in, or around fine places. Born on a cruise ship between Florida and the Caribbean, he grew up on the sea never seeing land until his tenth birthday. He's been many places and seen many things, now he wishes to share these experiences with the world through the art of storytelling.”

Appraisal:

Heather is tired of her cheating boyfriend, Peter. It’s humiliating, especially when all of her co-workers start giving her advice about how they would deal with him. She insists she loves him and doesn’t want to lose him. She’s just tired of his infidelity. At the end of the work day Lucy, a new co-worker, comes to her cubicle and offers her a solution. Lucy’s idea beats the heck out of going to a bar and picking up a one-night stand, and none of her other co-workers would be the wiser.

This story is short on words but not on anticipation, emotion, and angst. The ending is embarrassing and hysterical.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Bedroom scenes could be offensive to some. Don’t forget to ask Roger to deliver your chicken.

Format/Typo Issues:

Nothing significant.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 4-5,000 words