Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Reprise Review: Before Her Eyes by Rebecca Forster



Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Description:

“In a remote mountain community, the execution of a grocer and the abduction of a world-renowned model leave the local sheriff searching for a connection, two killers and a woman who is running for her life.”

Author:

“Rebecca Forster is the USA Today bestselling author of Keeping Counsel. She has written in many genres but her legal thrillers have been called, 'Perfect. Impossible to put down,' by the CBS legal correspondent

She holds a BA from Loyola University, Chicago and an MBA from Loyola University, Los Angeles.

Married to a superior court judge and the mother of two sons, she teaches at UCLA writers program, volunteers in classrooms and speaks in many venues around the country.”


Appraisal:

I’ve read several of Rebecca Forster’s legal thrillers and loved them all. Before Her Eyes was a change of pace from those; still a thriller, but moved out of the courtroom into the cold, cruel outside world and with a bit of mystery thrown in the mix. The book has two main story lines that are happening concurrently.

The first is what is happening with the sheriff, who is investigating a murder and what appears to be the kidnapping of a “world-renowned model.” The sheriff has a history with the victim and issues of his own that present a struggle and plenty of conflict, both internal and external. He and many of the characters he interacts with are complex, which makes the plot of the story both more unpredictable and more satisfying.

The second story line is what is happening with the missing model. While the first storyline is more of a mystery/police procedural, the second storyline is pure thriller. In neither can you assume that everything is as it seems as both have a twist that leave assumptions made early in the story torn to shreds.

Did I mention that I loved this book?

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A small amount of adult language and situations.

Added for Reprise Review: Before Her Eyes by Rebecca Forster was the WINNER in the Mystery category for B&P 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran June 18, 2012.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos/proofing misses. The most common was a missing “ed” ending such as “… an abandon house on the left,” which should be abandoned.
A formatting issue with spaces missing before sentences starting with quote marks. My version was obtained from Smashwords. This may not be an issue for other retailers and didn’t create problems in my reading enjoyment.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Monday, October 28, 2019

Review: Deception Walk by Melissa Bowersock



Genre: Cozy Mystery/Drama/Native American

Description:

“The paranormal investigative duo of Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud are doing fine, but when an ex-girlfriend of Sam’s shows up, Lacey feels uneasy. Sam has never talked much about his past, so the sudden arrival of a beautiful blonde is disturbing. However, when that same blonde disappears without a trace, and Sam is the last person to see her, Lacey realizes her worries are just beginning. The LA County Sheriff’s office and the LAPD know more than they’re saying—and they both consider Sam a suspect.”

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 Firecloud, Navajo medium, ends up in the hot seat after going out on an impromptu lunch with a former female friend he hadn’t seen or heard from in years. Sounds innocent enough, right? However, when this female friend goes missing and Sam is supposedly the last person to see her, things get complicated. Then the Sheriff’s Department finds her car abandoned in Angeles National Forest and Sam’s fingerprints are found in her Mercedes. The lead Sheriff Deputy Christianson does all he can to pin her disappearance and subsequent murder on Sam.

It’s not very often we see Lacey scared out of her wits. This story exposes her vulnerability when Sam is arrested for the woman’s murder. Of course he has no alibi, he works alone in his ceramic studio. Sam’s defense attorney, Rod Silversmith, keeps hitting road blocks from the court, which builds tension in the readers who are pulling for Sam. Lacey is conducting her own investigation and she has to be extremely careful not to be accused of witness tampering. She’s after the facts and has to do something to keep her mind occupied or it ventures to the worst case scenarios. The first twist in the plot is easily spotted. However, the rest of the story is an emotional rollercoaster all the way to the climax. 

Deception Walk is an excellent character study type of story. I love the way Ms. Bowersock’s characters are never stagnant, they grow, and even the kids are maturing realistically. The secondary characters are well developed and add interesting twists. None of the characters in this book are inherently evil. Although Deputy Christianson was real easy to hate. All in all Deception Walk is an intriguing read.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Deception Walk is book 22 in Ms. Bowersock’s, A LACEY FITZPATRICK and SAM FIRECLOUD MYSTERY SERIES. This series does not need to be read in order. However, you may miss some character development.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Friday, October 25, 2019

Reprise Review: Click: An Online Love Story by Lisa Becker



Genre: Chick-Lit

Description:

“Fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, and without even a prospect or a house full of cats, Renee Greene, the heroine of Click: An Online Love Story, reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles.

The story unfolds through a series of emails between Renee and her best friends (anal-compulsive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the over-sexed Shelley) as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with ‘My buddies and I were out drinking one night,’ to the egotistical ‘B’ celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates. Fraught with BCC's, FWD's, and inadvertent Reply to All's, readers will root for Renee to ‘click’ with the right man.”

Author:

“Lisa Becker had endured her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates, many of which inspired Click: An Online Love Story. She is now happily married to a wonderful man she met online and lives in Manhattan Beach [California] with him and their two daughters.”

Appraisal:

Click has a couple things in its premise that are guaranteed to grab my attention and, if done right, suck me into the story. One of those is building the story around computers in almost any way, but especially how our interactions are different with each other because of computer technology. This book does that in two ways, with computer dating and being made up entirely of emails between the protagonist, Renee, and her best friends. The last might spook lovers of dialogue or the flipside, haters of extended narration (and I’d put myself in the last group), but Becker managed to not trip any of my triggers in this regard. That she managed to slip in this joke that appealed to both my computer-geek and language-nerd sides was also a mark in the book’s favor:

I’m not certain I want to be with a man that even knows what a UNIX system is. But, I guess UNIX is better than Eunuchs. Ha! Ha! Okay, obviously this situation is making me a bit uncomfortable and as a result I’ve resorted to homonym humor.

Renee’s experience reminded me of Beth Orsoff’s book, Romantically Challenged, which is one of my favorite chick-lit books, in that she had to date a lot of frogs before she found a potential prince. And this was the second big attention grabber for me. As with Orsoff’s book, it gave me a chance to compare myself to the frogs and usually (okay, sometimes) come out okay in the comparison. But for the main target audience (which I’m not), you might find Renee’s experiences familiar and everyone will find them funny. I found that once I started reading this book I had a hard time putting it down and although it ties the story up nicely at the end, I wanted to know more about what happened to the characters afterward. Luckily, the sequel Double Click was queued up on my Kindle, so I was able to jump right in.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Limited adult language and situations.

Added for Reprise Review: Click: An Online Love Story by Lisa Becker was a nominee in the Chick-Lit/Women's Fiction category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran June 10, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review: An Honorable Man by Donna Fasano



Genre: Sweet Romance/Native American

Description:

“Nothing can make Native American Mat Makwa give up being a New York City police officer… except one little girl—all alone in the world—who needs a father. Returning to his Kolheek reservation to take on the safer job of sheriff of this small, close-knit community, he never expects his heart might be in danger to school teacher Julie Dacey.

Mat's six-year-old daughter Grace is a handful, and Julie finds herself getting to know Mat quite well during some intense parent-teacher meetings, which soon start occurring after hours. Then Mat begins mentoring Julie’s troubled teenaged brother and her heart softens toward this honorable man. Despite being wary of relationships, Julie can’t deny how her soul soars when Mat is near. Is the attraction between the flame-haired beauty and the lawman destined to turn into love?”

Author:
“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, a Golden Heart finalist, and 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.”

Ms. Fasano has two grown sons and lives with her husband on the eastern seaboard of the United States. To learn more please visit her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

When Mat Makwa, a NYC police officer, gets custody of Grace, a six year-old spitfire who is smart beyond her years, he decides to raise her in his hometown in Vermont. Misty Glen is a small Kolheek reservation where he has lined up a job as Sheriff, and he enrolls Grace in the first grade. As a member of the NYCPD he saw too many fellow police officers lose their life only to see the devastation on the families faces to allow that to happen to him. So he has sworn off relationships, Grace is all he is willing to take on.

On Grace’s first day of school she punches a fellow student. As a result Mat is called in for a parent teacher conference that afternoon. Grace’s teacher is Julie Dacey, a new resident in the area. When Mat and Julie first formally meet, fireworks fly. Both are caught off-guard by their overwhelming feelings, but try to remain professional during the conference. 

Julie Dacey has had a difficult time with abusive men growing up and is leery of new men. She has also carried a guilt for leaving her young brother, Brian, behind when she went to college. After her mother dies, and she had earned her teaching degree, Julie is able to get legal custody of Brian. She moves to the small Kolheek reservation in Misty Glen. She is hired as a first grade teacher at the elementary school there. She hopes that moving Brian to this small community will help tame his rebellious, thirteen year-old, nature.

Watching Mat’s internal struggles with his own convictions is frustrating, aggravating, and at times comical. Julie is intelligent and strong-willed, she also understands Mat’s position. However, Julie doesn’t have to do anything but be near him for his will to stay single to shatter all around him. It’s entertaining to watch their dance and a bit nerve wracking. It’s usually the woman I want to bop on the head and say, ‘Snap out of it!’ I loved the way Julie handled Mat at the end, after all he put her through, she did good.

An Honorable Man is enlightening, heart-warming, and a fun read. Grace was a blast! Ms. Fasano always makes her kids realistic and a joy to read about. We got to meet Dakota and Chay briefly as the story arc widens. I really can’t wait to read Chay’s story! He captured my interest. All we know about Chay is he’s taking a break from life, living alone in an old hunting cabin in the woods. I need me some Chay! But, Dakota’s story is next, I am looking forward to learning more about these Black Bear Brothers!

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

An Honorable Man is book 1 in Ms. Fasano’s, The Black Bear Brothers Series.  Although the books in this series are stand-alone novels, reading the books in order will offer the most enjoyable experience.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing errors.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words

Monday, October 21, 2019

Review: Hashtag Queer: LGBTQ+ Creative Anthology, Volume 3 by Various



Genre: Short Story Anthology/Poetry/LGBT

Description:

“Still all-queer all the time, Hashtag Queer, Volume 3 presents even more short fiction, nonfiction, poetry and scripts all written by &/or about LGBTQ+ people from around the world. Includes work by two writers from India, where being gay was only just legalized less than a year ago. Volume 3 features 30 pieces by writers from around the world and across the rainbow spectrum of sexuality and gender-identity. Topics and themes explored include social justice, personal empowerment, magical realism, asexuality, gender-transitioning, aging, religion, friendship, death, parenting, Houdini and Batman, as well as love (of course.)”

Author:

A variety of authors from the LGBTQ+ community, mostly from around the US, but including at least one from India.

Appraisal:

My reasons for reading vary, but fall into a few categories. One of the big ones is the opportunity to put myself in the position of someone unlike me with the hope that by doing so I’ll understand them better. While members of the LGBT+ community would approach these stories from an entirely different angle, for me, it was this increased understanding that I hoped for when I decided to give this book a try. In many ways it delivered beyond expectations. I’m not much for poetry or reading scripts, but the short fiction and nonfiction in this collection definitely expanded my horizons, giving me some new perspectives on sexual and gender identity and what it is like for those who fall elsewhere on the spectrum than I do.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Friday, October 18, 2019

Review: Call Me Cass by Kelly Stone Gamble



Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Description:

“Cass Adams is finally happy. She has a man who loves her, a family that understands her, and a baby on the way. Other than seeing the occasional dead person, Cass feels normal. But pregnancy has an unwelcome side effect. Cass is having visions of the future, just like Grams does. While some are cloudy, Cass knows one thing for certain. Her best friend, Maryanne, is going to die.

Police Chief Benny Cloud has his own problems. His father has been released from prison and is on his way home to surprise Benny’s mother, who’s been keeping time with the county sheriff. Fat Tina’s Gentlemen’s Club is under siege by protestors. And it’s growing dark outside.

A devastating storm is coming to Deacon, Kansas. In its wake, the town must deal with tragic losses that force everyone to reevaluate their lives.”

Author:

“About Kelly Stone Gamble:

I want readers to take something away from my books and short stories: something memorable, whether it be an interesting protagonist, an emotion or a moment in time.

Depending on what characters decide to sit beside me on a particular day, I may write historical fiction or quirky, dark humor.

My interests are as diverse as my writing. I am at home fishing on a river, riding horses in the mountains, reading on a beach, hiking through the desert or playing pirate with my friends.

I don't believe in growing old and I refuse to grow up.”

To learn more about Ms. Gamble please check out her website, or herFacebook page.

Appraisal:

Cass Adams is a special sort of character that you can’t help but love and identify with. She is plain spoken and many believe her to be a little touched. Is she crazy? Probably no more than the rest of the townspeople. She has inherited her grandmother’s ability of precognition and she sees dead people. Needless to say, Cass sees the world differently than most of us. However, Cass’s precognitive dreams are not as fully developed as Grams’. So, if Grams says stay where you are ‘til the storm passes, you had better stay where you are! There is a monster tornado headed straight towards Deacon, Kansas. Devastation is massive and lives are lost.

Emotions run high as people search through the rubble for their loved ones. No one ever thinks it could happen to them, no matter how often you see the destruction on TV or video. If you live in tornado alley you are more likely to run outside to see the funnel cloud than you are to run for cover when the tornado sirens scream their warning. I’m just as guilty as my neighbors.

I loved getting to know Fat Tina, she is not your typical strip club owner. Fat Tina is full to the brim of integrity and heart. She’s smart and keeps her wits about her whether she is surrounded by protesters or in the midst of a storm. Cass impressed me as well, even though she was trying to control Mother Nature within as well as the storm outside. I am glad she was with Grams and Dog.

As with the first two books in this series, They Call Me Crazy and Call Me Daddy, the story is told through multiple points of view, which are labeled clearly at the head of each chapter. At times it seems a little repetitious, but you are seeing the same events through another character’s eyes. Some back story of certain characters are nicely woven into the story as well. Call Me Cass could be read as a standalone, but why would you do that? You’d miss Ms. Gamble’s great storytelling by skipping either of the other books. I did love the conclusion of this book, it’s one of the best endings I’ve read in a while.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Call Me Cass, is book 3 in Ms. Gamble’s A Cass Adams Novel series, following They Call Me Crazy, and Call Me Daddy.

Format/Typo Issues:

Nothing significant.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Reprise Review: Life First by RJ Crayton



Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian

Description:

“Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world's population, life is valued above all else. The government of ‘Life First’ requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told.

Determined not to give up her kidney, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.”

Author:

A native of the Midwest, RJ Crayton now lives in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Before starting her family Crayton worked as a journalist, but now spends her time writing fiction and as what she calls a “Ninja Mom.”

For more, visit Crayton’s website.

Appraisal:

I’ve had a good run of dystopian novels lately. Life First continues that trend. A dystopia is the opposite of a utopia and typically a dystopian novel will extrapolate a current social or political movement taken to an extreme. Crayton’s extrapolated future struck me as different from most which, at the risk of getting too political, I’ll explain.

Although the future extrapolated in a dystopian novel is typically thought to be a warning against continuing in a particular direction, many are nothing more than slippery slope arguments. The slippery slope argument often seems rational, but is usually a logical fallacy when used as a justification against taking the first step. (If you want to understand why, Google will uncover several good explanations.)

Life First was different for reasons I couldn’t quite pinpoint until I finished the book and took time to reflect. The biggest reason is the slippery slope argument isn’t there. Those who are arguing in real life to take the first steps (at least in the US) of limiting abortion with an eye to eradicating it completely are the same people who would object the loudest to the next steps, forcing someone to donate an “unneeded kidney” for example. Even if other events happened in between (a pandemic that wiped out 80% of the world’s population, in this story) I’m not sure that those who are for the first steps would ever support the next steps. Yet, the logic to justify the first steps (the sanctity of life) seems to apply at least as much to the additional steps. For me, the “warning” wasn’t needed, but did prompt some reflection and gave me new insights on the issue being explored, which is another kind of success.

But none of the subtext matters unless the story is good. This one was. I was drawn into Kelsey’s plight and cared how it ended. It also prompted questions about how I would react if put in the same position and how far I’d be willing to go in defense of my position.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Life First by RJ Crayton was a nominee in the Speculative Fiction category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran November 4, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Monday, October 14, 2019

Review: Golden Age Of Fucking Everything by Richard Moore



Genre: Satire/Science Fiction

Description:

“One billion years in the future, Ritch Speerat seeks psychological help for his nightmares. On his way to his therapist, he meets The Hortboy. Ritch shares with The Hortboy his love of ancient history, specifically an age one billion years in the past which he calls the 'golden age of fucking everything'. The Hortboy is charmed by this age and shares it with everyone he knows. It goes viral.

Ritch's therapist informs him that he can end his nightmares by using The One True Law Of The Universe on his cannibal family. Ritch must retrieve The One True Law, overcoming many obstacles, and expose the source of his nightmares to its justice. Maybe his unique knowledge of the 'golden age of fucking everything' will help him.

On his journey, Ritch encounters giant pizza-delivering rodents, enchanted roadways, weird spells, strange magic items, golden skyscrapers, a singing/dancing army, ghastly demons, villainous cannibals, multiple One True Laws, a pot smoking dragon, and a group of frat boys, all of which come together like water in a fucking funnel.

The Golden Age Of Fucking Everything juxtaposes: mature psychological issues with sophomoric humor, emotional abandonment with serendipitous friendship, girl parts with boy parts; you get the fucking idea.”

Author:

This appears to be the first published work by Richard Moore, at least under this name. He has another book on the way, but that’s petty much all the information I’ve been able to find.

Appraisal:

It seems unfair that the title and book’s description both use a word that I’m sure if I used it in my appraisal of the book would prompt Amazon to disallow or delete my review when I post it there. That’s not flipping fair. I guess I’ll have to find a way to deal with those restraints while describing this book.

If you’re one of those people who are offended by certain language and don’t think it should ever be used in works of fiction, I’m guessing the title was enough to convince you to move on. If it didn’t, you may want to now. In fact, if constant use of the word that comedian George Carlin called “the champion of dirty words” is going to be a problem, this book isn’t for you.  Additionally, if sophomoric humor as it is described in the book’s description will be an issue, you’ll want to skip it. Some might feel the frequent reference to sex involving a person’s rear is a problem as well.

But if you get past all of that, you’ll find the book is funny. Trying to anticipate where the adventure the main character is experiencing will end up is entertaining. Figuring out the strange world the author has envisioned for a billion years in the future is a fun exercise, helped along by a glossary at the end if you’d like to refer to it and frequent footnotes that can also be a help. Plus, if a billion years prior to a billion years in the future was really the golden age of … ummm … pretty much everything then maybe at least part of the book’s purpose is to make us glad we live when we do instead of a billion years in the future. For the most part, it did that. Except for making me unhappy at having limits on how often I can use my favorite freaking words.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

See title. See appraisal. If it is possible for you to be offended by language, this isn’t the fucking book for you.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: Prediction by Tony Batton



Genre: Technothriller

Description:

“When someone steals a top secret experimental nuclear reactor, the British intelligence services have no leads. Their hopes rest on a new quantum super computer, one capable of interpreting patterns in the oceans of intelligence data. There’s just the small challenge of building it.

Gregory Jenson, CEO of ZAT Systems, is tasked by MI5 to create the computer, but ghosts in his past could thwart matters before he even begins. Young lawyer, Michael Adams, is given the task of helping Jenson, but he soon has problems of his own.

And they’ll soon learn that a hidden player wants to use the new system for their own plans – someone incredibly well-informed, and prepared to go to any lengths to achieve their goals.

And if they succeed, the recovery of the nuclear reactor will be the least of everyone’s problems.”

Author:

“Tony Batton worked in international law firms, media companies and Formula One motorsport, before turning his hand to writing novels. He is passionate about great stories, gadgets and coffee, and probably consumes too much of each.”

Appraisal:

An intense technothriller that might creep into near future science fiction. The reason I say might is that it’s hard to know what is and isn’t possible in today’s world and what might become possible in the near future. The concept here is that the use of “big data” will make it possible not only to figure out how to influence the masses in what to buy and who to vote for, but also to predict the future.

It’s a fast-paced, unpredictable and intense story. But more importantly it should get you thinking, pondering what the future might hold.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of errors, but not enough to be a big concern. Using the word waive instead of wave two or three times especially caught my attention.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words