Friday, May 31, 2019

Review: Emeralds and Envy (Junkin' Jewelry Mysteries Book 1) by Angela McRae



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Woman Sleuth

Description:

“Emma Madison loves junkin’ for old baubles to turn into dazzling new creations, and launching her new career as a jewelry designer in the small town of Roseland, Georgia, is a dream come true. After making out like a bandit at a garage sale one morning, Emma goes to the Silver Squirrel antiques shop to share her fabulous finds with a fellow jewelry lover. She’s shocked to learn that a salesclerk friend, Tina, has just been found murdered.

When the police can’t get any firm leads, Emma decides to use her newspaper reporting experience to assist them. According to the local gossip mill, not everyone in town liked Tina, including her two siblings. Soon, the list of suspects is longer than a strand of opera pearls.

Someone is trying to stop Emma from helping, even going so far as to threaten her new business. While eager to get back to making jewelry, Emma is determined to find the person responsible for Tina’s death, even if that means coming face-to-face with the killer.”

Author:

“Angela McRae is a former newspaper and magazine editor who started her own freelance writing and editing business so she could play on the internet even more. She currently writes social media posts for local businesses and reviews and edits books. Her dream job would be to edit all those clever Facebook postings for proper spelling and punctuation. She enjoys gardening and pursuing her passion for teatime, frequently blogging about tea with friends around the world.”

Learn more about Ms. McRae on her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Emma Madison was a newspaper journalist a few years ago. When the paper started downsizing she knew she needed to change career goals. Her love of costume jewelry and rhinestones leads her to discover she has a talent for designing new pieces of jewelry from old costume jewelry and beads. Her creations are designed by watching trends for color, style, and size. Finding old pieces at bargain prices at garage sales and thrift stores excite her. Every now and again she will find a real treasure to sell on eBay. Her creations sell well at the art market in the small tourist town of Roseland, Georgia.

Being an ex-journalist she has an inquisitive nature. To tell the truth she is up in everyone’s business. A real Nosy Nellie. When there is a murder at an upscale antique jewelry and bobbles shop, The Silver Squirrel, Emma vows to catch the murderer. Of course the police are on it, and Detective Shelton is perfectly capable. He’s smart, intuitive, and trying to keep Emma from becoming the next victim. He warns her time and time again to let him handle it. However, Emma thinks her unique perspective will help them solve the murder, and catch the killer. There are egos galore in Roseland. It is your typical stereotype of a small town.

The characters were well written, diverse, and unique. From tea sippers, pretentious artisans, talented weavers, painters, and talented jewelry designers. All with their own brand of sanity.    

Much of this story read more like Woman’s Fiction than a Cozy Mystery. There were lots of descriptive prose that didn’t move the story forward. The middle of the book dragged for me. Since this is the first book of a series it is necessary that we meet the other shop owners. For one reason or another I didn’t feel a kinship with Emma. She is very talented and has a heart of gold, but she thinks a little too highly of herself.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

  
FYI:

Emeralds and Envy is book 1 of Angela McRae’s, Junkin' Jewelry Mysteries. There are also a couple of recipes at the end to try at your next tea party.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues with proofing or formatting.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Review: Kai and The Daddyman: The Adventures Continues by Michelle Person



Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Description:

“Pointy sticks, shiny earrings, and strange balls…Kai is learning about the world everyday a little at a time. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s confusing. But with her Daddyman by her side it’s always an adventure!”

Author:

No information available.

Appraisal:

The second in a series, but no need to have read the first for this book to make sense. The age rating Amazon has is for 0-5 year old kids. I tried it on my barely 6 year-old granddaughter. Her eleven year-old sister joined in, helping me read. The younger one loved it and as soon as we finished wanted to hear it again. She even let me get away with changing Kai to her name, but put her foot down when I changed Daddyman to Grandpa-man. It was worth a shot. The next morning she was borrowing my Kindle Fire to read it herself, or at least look at the pictures.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI

As noted, this is the second in a series, but stands alone. The words and pictures display fine on my Kindle Voyager and presumably would do so on at least some of the other newer black and white Kindle models, but is much better on a color device.

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 28 pages

Monday, May 27, 2019

Reprise Review: Wing Wife by Marcia J. Sargent



Genre: Memoir

Description:

A memoir of the author’s time married to a Marine fighter pilot.

Author:

From 1975 until 1987, Marcia Sargent was married to a Marine fighter pilot, the basis for this book. When her husband retired, they returned to her native Southern California, where she was an elementary school teacher. Sargent lives with her husband, cat, and parrot and loves walking the sands of Laguna Beach. In addition to this memoir, Sargent has two books for young adults, Day Monsters and Night Monsters.

For more, visit the author’s blog.

Appraisal:

I enjoy memoirs that give me insight into a life different from what I’ve experienced. Or for that matter, one like my own, so I can compare and contrast. One thing that struck me about Wing Wife is that it gives a glimpse into two different lives, not just the author’s experiences as a military wife, but also her husband’s triumphs and struggles as a Marine fighter pilot.

In the post-Viet Nam war era covered by this memoir, I was surprised to discover how dangerous being a fighter pilot was. As Sargent explained, “death was no stranger, even in peacetime.” As a newlywed, she had all the issues adapting to married life most people find. In addition, dealing with the “capriciousness” of the military (something she said the Marine Corps excelled at) and the expectations that came with being a “military wife” added to the normal newlywed stress. Sargent’s memoir runs the gambit from funny to heartbreaking. A good read.

As addenda to the memoir are several short essays called “aviator briefs.” These take specific items that were discussed in the body of the memoir where going into more detail would have caused the main narrative to drag, but for those interested in knowing more on the subject, these expand on what was included in the body of the book.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK
             
FYI:

A small amount of adult language and some adult situations.

Added for Reprise Review: Wing Wife by Marcia J. Sargent was a nominee in the Memoir category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran March 30, 2012

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Friday, May 24, 2019

Review: Ghosters 2: Revenge of the Library Ghost by Diana Corbitt



Genre: Middle Grade/Paranormal Mystery/Ghosts

Description:

A 6th grade class's weekly visit to their school library suddenly goes sideways when an angry ghost attacks. Lights go off and on and air conditioning vents blast icy wind, making books fly and terrified children run screaming.

The only ones not running are Joey Martinez and Elbie Bird.

Yes, Joey has autism, and Elbie has ADHD. But that's not why the boys aren't frightened.

They've seen this type of thing before.

As resident of an actual haunted house, a haunted school library is no big deal to Joey. It's also nothing special to his new best friend. Having lived over a funeral home his entire life, Elbie has seen quite a few ghosts himself.

But why is the ghost so mad, and what does it want?

The boys don't know, but if they're ever going to check out another book, they'll have to solve this ghostly mystery. Luckily, Joey's sister Theresa and her friend Kerry are there to help.  

The second book of the series, Ghosters 2 is about pulling pranks, friendship, but most importantly, helping others.”

Author:

“Diana Corbitt is a retired elementary school teacher living in northern California. Her work has appeared in Bewildering Stories and Encounters Magazine. She had a podcast on Manor House and one of her short stories was anthologized in Wax and Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales.

To learn more about Ms. Corbitt check out her website.

Appraisal:

Joey Martinez and Elbie Bird are sixth grade friends whose class is in the school library when a ghost starts wreaking havoc. Neither of these two boys are bothered by ghosts, they are part of their daily life. Joey Martinez lives in a haunted house with his older sister, Theresa, and their father. Joey, who narrates the story, is a high functioning Asperger's/autism spectrum individual. He struggles with social cues, sarcasm, and takes things quite literally. It is enlightening to watch as he works through his neurotypical world for understanding. Elbie struggles with ADHD, and has lived over a funeral home his entire life. Ghosts are nothing new to either of these boys.

The problem is finding a way to communicate with each ghost. Since this ghost is holding a new book Joey wants to check out hostage, he has to figure out why the ghost is angry and how he and his side-kick Elbie can help set things right. Thankfully they have Joey’s older sister, Theresa, and her ghost-chasing friend Kerry. It’s interesting and educational to watch how Joey navigates in his neurotypical world as we are often in his head. This will benefit all young readers understanding classmates who struggle with a similar diagnosis.  

The story is engaging and has many twists that call for Theresa’s and Kerry’s involvement. It is a complicated plot the kids need to work through. There are plenty of humorous moments to ease the tension. The climax is brilliant with lots of action as these four friends satisfy the ghostly entity’s desires. And Joey gets the book he wanted.

In the aftermath Elbie and Kerry are having a difficult time keeping things to themselves because of an ongoing criminal investigation. There are some good things happening around their school library now. Then Elbie and Joey are asked to come straight to Elbie’s house after school for a heartwarming end of the book. These two supposedly challenged boys not only brought justice to one spirit they also succeeded in improving the resting place for many other spirits.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Revenge of the Library Ghost is the second book of the Ghosters series. 

Format/Typo Issues:

The book file I was given was a formatting nightmare and should have been tossed. However, I liked the characters so I plowed through. In looking at the version now available on Amazon it appears these issues have been fixed, so no stars were deducted.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Reprise Review: Seized (The Pipe Woman Chronicles) by Lynne Cantwell



Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Contemporary/ World Mythology

Description:

Native American and old world mythos intertwine in a captivating story surrounding the winter of solstice 2012. Naomi has a pretty sweet life as a skilled mediator at a large legal firm in Colorado and she has just become engaged. When events from her past come to light, her whole world is turned upside down. It will never be the same again.

Author:

“Lynne Cantwell has a master's degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University; she is a former broadcast journalist who is working a day job as a legal secretary. Ms. Cantwell is also a contributing author at Indies Unlimited where she shares her knowledge about Indie publishing and promotion. Her Pipe Woman Chronicles include three volumes to date Seized, Fissured, and Tapped. Ms Cantwell’s other books are SwanSong, The Maidens' War, and Lulie: a short story. She was also a contributing author for Live Simply in the City and Indies Unlimited: Tutorials and Tools for Prospering in a Digital World.”

You can learn more about Ms. Cantwell on her blog or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

I have a soft spot for Native American stories, I am not sure why, as far as I know I have no Native American blood. I also enjoy stories about old world gods and myths. This story combines the two in a unique way. This contemporary fantasy is told through Naomi’s eyes. She is an intelligent, well-balanced character that you can’t help but like. The story is well thought out, draws you in quickly and has a steady building plot that adds some interesting twists.

Each character in the story is well developed and plays an important part in the development of the plot. I loved the way this story challenges all belief systems, this author has taken this on in a grand scale. The dialogue is realistic, entertaining, and humorous at times. I found it very easy to suspend my disbelief and become immersed in the story. I am excited to see where she takes us as this story continues to build in its ever-widening scope. Well done, Ms. Cantwell, well done. I think I have found a new favorite fantasy author.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This book contains adult language and situations that may be offensive to some, but I don’t feel they were added for shock value.

Added for Reprise Review: Seized by Lynne Cantwell was a nominee in the Speculative Fiction category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran February 8, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant errors or issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Monday, May 20, 2019

Review: Serpents of Old by Kirk Millson




Genre: Mystery

Description:

“Six months after a young mother disappears in an Arizona canyon, her children vanish from their Salt Lake City home. When reporter Carter Miguel senses that a detective is too eager to put the father behind bars, he follows his hunches to a curious settlement in the Utah desert.

Redemption is led by ‘prophet’ Everett Deavers, a charismatic giant of a flimflam man whose $20 million land scam is jeopardized by Miguel’s sudden interest in the area. Deavers scrambles to cover his tracks, which makes it a perilous time for anyone who can tie him to the truth.”

Author:

“Kirk Millson worked 20 years as a reporter, editor and editorial writer for the Murray Eagle, Atlanta Constitution and Salt Lake Tribune. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Alison.”

Appraisal:

This is a solid mystery with a lot of common elements: people who have gone missing, a reporter trying to figure out the mystery of where they are, a few different evil-doers that may or may not be involved. It would be a good read for any mystery reader.

But what set Serpents of Old apart for me was how well it captures and integrates the uniqueness of Utah into the story. This includes the vast difference between the urban and suburban Salt Lake Valley compared to the rural, barely populated spots in the central and southern parts of the state. It includes mention of the natural beauty of the state as well as the danger those natural places can sometimes present. The author does a good job of showing the culture of Utah, dominated by one particular religion, but with a propensity for groups to splinter off of the main organization, keeping many of the practices of the parent while adding their own twists that are even more cultish than the original. This made for a unique story world and set the stage for some of the story’s more unique twists.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing misses.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Friday, May 17, 2019

Reprise Review: Integration by Imogen Rose



Genre: YA/Paranormal

Description:

The second book in Rose’s Bonfire Academy series, Integration continues the story of Faustine, Quinn, Cordelia, and many of the other characters from Initiation as Faustine completes her next year at the Bonfire Academy, a boarding school in the Swiss Alps that trains teen paranormals to use and control their special powers. It’s just like high school, only worse.

Author:

Globetrotter Imogen Rose is Swedish by birth, went to college in London (where she received a PhD in immunology), and is now a Jersey girl. After her eight-year-old daughter insisted she write down her stories, Rose wrote the first of her Portal Chronicles series and decided to let it out into the world. The response was so positive that she’s continued with three books in the series. Plans at least one more, and started two other series. For more, visit Rose’s website.

Appraisal:

If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be reading books that were not only young adult, but full of paranormal characters, I’d have called you crazy. But I got sucked in by reading the first of Imogen Rose’s Portal series, which convinced me that young adult didn’t mean a grandparent was too old to enjoy it. It snuck in a small dose of the paranormal, so I was open to giving it a try when she started a series that was definitely paranormal. Now I’m hooked. Integration has only set the hook deeper.

The Bonfire Academy series is a prequel to The Bonfire Chronicles, which currently has only one book, Faustine. Integration bridges the time from the end of Initiation to the start of Faustine. The focus is largely on Cordelia, although many of the students are returning, including one in particular who generates much of the book’s conflict. Some new characters also make their first appearances and shake things up.

I’m always impressed by Rose’s ability to introduce and integrate new characters in an ongoing series and to craft an engrossing story, which is aptly demonstrated here. But what struck me as I was reflecting on Integration was that she’s done a first class job of world building without me realizing it. When I think of a typical book in the fantasy or science fiction genres, I expect a large part of that will be describing a world that is much different than anything in real life, while having enough aspects of the real world for us to be able to relate. While Rose’s world exists on the same planet we live on and sometimes her characters visit that world, I realized that what she has done with the Bonfire Academy series is created a world that is just as foreign to the world I live in as a story taking place on Planet X. None of the characters are 100% human. Their emotions, reactions, and powers are, at most, sometimes human-like, but more often not. Maybe the reason it took me this long to realize this is that their goals aren’t that much different from those of a human teenager: survive school, have fun, and find someone to hook up with.

Now I’m left looking forward to the next Imogen Rose book, and wondering what it will be. Another installment in the Portal series is most likely. But The Bonfire Chronicles has only one book thus far and it isn’t clear whether this will be the last of The Bonfire Academy series or not. Whatever comes next, I hope it won’t be long, or I may have to give in and read Twilight.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Recommend reading Initiation, the first in the series, prior to reading Integration.

Added for Reprise Review: Integration by Imogen Rose was the Winner in the Young Adult category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran July 10, 2012.

Format/Typo Issues:

As a beta reader I evaluated based on a pre-publication version and can’t evaluate the final version in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review: Masquerade: Oddly Suited by Various



Genre: Short Story Anthology

Description:

“Find love at the ball…

Can a fake dating game show lead to love? Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince? Can a softball pitcher and a baseball catcher work together? Is there a vampire living in Paradise, Newfoundland? What’s more important—a virtual Traveler or a virtual date to the ball?

Ten authors explore young love in all its facets, from heartbreak to budding passion. Featuring the talents of L.G. Keltner, Jennifer Lane, C.D. Gallant-King, Elizabeth Mueller, Angela Brown, Myles Christensen, Deborah Solice, Carrie-Anne Brownian, Anstice Brown, and Chelsea Marie Ballard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will mystify and surprise even as they touch your heart. Don your mask and join the party…”

Author:

The stories are by various authors who “won” placement in the book in a contest administered by the Insecure Writers Support Group.

Appraisal:

Each of these ten short stories have one thing in common, young love. Beyond that, they’re all solid efforts. In every other way they run a broad gambit with multiple genres and different writing styles represented. If a short read with young love as part of the story appeals to you, you’re sure to find at least a couple of these are a perfect fit for you. (If your taste in genres is wide enough, maybe all ten.)

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

The copy I was provided was an advance copy so I can’t judge the final product in this area.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Monday, May 13, 2019

Review: Predator Walk by Melissa Bowersock



Genre: Paranormal/Mystery/Native American

Description:

“When medium Sam Firecloud and his partner, paranormal investigator Lacey Fitzpatrick, are called in on a new case, it appears to be a normal haunting, if there is such a thing. But neither is prepared for the effect this ghost has on Lacey, nor the ripple effect through their own relationship. Suddenly it’s not just sending a lost spirit on its way that concerns them, but Lacey’s own mental and emotional health, and—perhaps—the future of their partnership.”

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 IndiesUnlimited. 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. For an up close look at A Lacy Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery Series check out Firecloud’s exclusive website.

Appraisal:

Predator Walk confronts serious subjects of rape, depression, and family secrets. Catherine Epps places a call for help due to a heaviness she is feeling in the master bedroom of the family home she inherited after her mother’s passing a few months ago.

During Sam’s Walk, Lacey has a strange reaction. This case is not the simple haunting they were expecting. First, Lacey’s research keeps hitting dead ends, and stories/memories aren’t adding up. I enjoyed the path Ms. Bowersock has Lacey taking to suss out the contributing factors of the case. Things get personal for both Catherine and Lacey. The reality of Catherine’s childhood is completely undone. And Lacey is haunted by a past she thought she had buried deep enough.

On the home front Lacey and Kenzie decide to grow milkweed for Monarch butterflies to lay eggs on. Kenzie becomes enthralled and decides to write a school report on what she is learning and experiences watching the whole life-cycle of the fascinating Monarch butterfly. Since Daniel turned fifteen recently, Sam decides to give Daniel driving lessons. Oh, fun times!

Back to the case at hand. The plot take some surprising twists and turns. Sam and Lacey decide a second Walk may be in order. On this second Walk Sam learns more and other things come to light. Now, Catherine needs time to digest all she has learned about her mother’s past. She also decides to take another path to learn about her biological father, which brings surprising results. And Lacey admits she has some demons of her own to deal with.

While heavy topics are revealed Ms. Bowersock handles them with respect and honesty from the victims resulting emotions. I love the way characters connected in this story, I see bright things in the future for all.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Trigger warning; Rape is an issue in Predator Walk.
Predator Walk is book nineteen in Melissa Bowersock’s, A LACEY FITZPATRICK and SAM FIRECLOUD MYSYTERY SERIES.

Format/Typo Issues:

I was a beta reader and can’t speak about the finished product. However, Ms. Bowersock’s are books are generally clear of proofing issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Friday, May 10, 2019

Reprise Review: Thought I Knew You by Kate Moretti



Genre: Mystery/Chick Lit/Romance

Description:

“Claire Barnes is shattered when her husband, Greg, goes on a business trip and never returns. Unwilling to just wait for the police to find him, Claire conducts her own investigation. Her best friend Drew helps her look for answers, but all she finds are troubling questions. With every clue, she discovers that Greg may not be the man she thought she married. While battling her growing feelings for Drew and raising her two young children, Claire must learn to live with the knowledge that the truth behind Greg’s disappearance may never be revealed.”

Author:

 “Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She's worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.

She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn't get to do those things as much as she'd like.

Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.”


Appraisal:

It’s a good thing I don’t have to shelve Thought I Knew You at the local bookstore. I’m not sure where I’d put it. It could fit in romance, although the typical man who doesn’t read romance, but enjoys books with a female protagonist, would never stumble on it, despite its being a book he might like. Chick-Lit presents the same problem. The female lead is working through issues, not unlike what you might find in that genre; however, chick-lit is typically lighter and more humorous than you’ll find here. We’ve also got a mystery at the heart of the story, but that isn’t a good fit either. There is both much more to the story than that, and not as much mystery as a typical reader of that genre would expect.

Luckily, I don’t have to shelve this and you won’t need to know where to look to find it. From my ramblings above and the description, you should have a reasonable idea of the kind of story you’ll find. Anyone who reviews a lot of anything, whether music, video games, or books, loves to find something that is different enough to push the normal boundaries, while still being high quality and not going so far as to exceed the typical comfort zone. This is one of those books. Claire and Drew, the main characters (in addition to the missing Greg) are people I cared about, always important to grab and hold my interest. I assumed the main story conflict would come to a resolution, but I was constantly flip-flopping among the various ways that might happen and, when I finally got there, was still surprised. This is an engaging debut novel that deserves to do well.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Added for Reprise Review: Thought I Knew You by Kate Moretti was the Winner in the Chick Lit category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran October 9, 2012

Format/Typo Issues:

Review based on an advanced reader copy.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words