Thursday, October 1, 2020

Review: Barclay: Bachelors & Babies by Charlene Raddon

 


Genre: Sweet Romance/Western/Historical

Description:

“No bachelor could be prepared for what happens to the Givens brothers one stormy night in 1876. Finding a pregnant woman on their road, they take her in. Before they can learn anything about her, she gives birth to triplets and disappears. Luckily, the doctor supplies a much-needed wet-nurse— Cynara, a recent widow who lost her baby. Her sad eyes and gentle acceptance awaken something in Barclay's staid soul. But she's not ready for a new man in her life. She'll stay at the ranch and tend the babies, but that's all.

Meanwhile, where is the babies' real mother? Who and where is the father? And what will become of these helpless infants?”

Author:

“Charlene Raddon fell in love with the wild west as a child, listening to western music with her dad and sitting in his lap while he read Zane Gray’s books. She never intended to become a writer. Charlene was an artist. She majored in fine arts in college.

In 1971, she moved to Utah, excited for the opportunity to paint landscapes. Then her sister introduced her to romance novels. She never picked up a paintbrush again… Instead of painting pictures with a brush, Charlene uses words.”

For more information about Ms. Raddon feel free to visit her website.

Appraisal:

Bachelors & Babies is a multi-author endeavor. Barclay is the oldest of three Givens brothers running the family ranch, and the first of Ms. Raddon’s contributions to the series. Each brother gets his own book, and I think Barclay sets a nice foundation for the other two brother’s stories. However, the last thing this ranch needs are more babies.

The prolog to this story is tragic and heartbreaking. Cynara Stratton is a young widow who has lost everything and most recently her own baby.

The story proper starts one stormy night when the Givens brothers take in a pregnant woman coming up their road to the ranch house. Cold, wet, obviously abused, and in the early stages of labor she is seeking sanctuary for the night. She warily accepts their help, but refuses to even give them her name or where she is from. The brothers are flying blind having only birthed calves. After the baby is born they think they are home free, however the mother doesn’t even want to look at him or hold him. Then the labor pains start again. Doc has been sent for, but is delayed because of the storm and the flooded creek. By the time he arrives a third baby has been born. Since the baby momma won’t give the men even her name they call her Minnie (no relation to the mouse). Doc gives the babies a clean bill of health, despite their small size, and tells Minnie to rest and stay in bed for a few days. However, by the next morning she has run off leaving the babies behind.

Doc brings Cynara to the Givens ranch to be a wet nurse for the premature triplets hoping it will help heal the hole in her soul. She blends in well with the men knowing this is just a temporary situation, but can’t help loving each of the babies. I thought it was endearing how each brother claimed and named a baby. The plot twists and turns as other secondary characters are brought into the story. It’s a rollercoaster ride running the ranch and dealing with more personal attacks. Barclay’s life is turned upside down and inside out as tension builds in the last few chapters for an explosive turn of events.

I found Barclay and Cynara’s journey quite satisfying, and I was glad when Barclay finally found the right words he meant to convey to Cynara. This was a fun adventure into the wild west of Montana.  

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Barclay is book 4 in the Bachelors and Babies Books.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Reprise Review: Malocclusion, tales of misdemeanor by V.S. Kemanis

 


Genre: Short Story Collection

Description:

“Tempting little wrongs, moral dilemmas, subconscious desires. Blinded by self-deception, even the best of us are led astray. In these 14 stories, you'll encounter familiar misdemeanants from every walk of life and their unwitting—or complicit—victims.”

Author:

“V.S. Kemanis is a California native and currently resides in New York. As an attorney, she has been a criminal prosecutor for county and state agencies, argued criminal appeals for the prosecution and defense, conducted complex civil litigation, and worked for state appellate courts.”

Kemanis also has three short story collections available and is working on the second novel in her Dana Hargrove legal mystery series.

For more, visit her website.

Appraisal:

This is a collection of slice-of-life stories, each with a character who has a flaw, often exacerbated by a dose of self-delusion. With the exception of that flaw, they could be just like us. (Or maybe they are just like us and we don’t want to admit it.) Each is well told, with interesting characters, which might go without saying since it is usually the imperfections that make a character unique.

A few of the stories stood out, each for different reasons. Cat, for the twist ending that snuck up on me. Where I Am stood out because it is much different from the other stories in setting and genre, although that reality was slow in penetrating my consciousness. Last, A Simple Case, because it features Dana Hargrove, the protagonist in Kemanis’ novel Thursday’s List, which I had previously read. This story takes place prior to the novel. Dana learns some lessons that will be beneficial for her future.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Malocclusion, tales of misdemeanor by V.S. Kemanis was a nominee in the Short Story Collections and Anthologies category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran October 31, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Review: Bitcoin: Just the Facts by Beverley Douglas

 


Genre: Non-Fiction

Description:

“Unless you have been subject to living underground for the last decade it would have been impossible for you to ignore the hype surrounding Bitcoin. Whether it would be your local news anchor hammering it as a scam or your neighbor trying to give your family free and fantastic investment advice, the phenomenon has swept through every major nation in the world. However, as your average citizen just trying to get on with your day you may have never truly known what the hype is all about. What exactly is Bitcoin? Why are so many people talking about it? Why should you care? Well, all of that and more will be answered in this book as we bring you Bitcoin: Just The Facts.”

Author:

No information readily available about the author, either in the book or on an author page on Amazon.

Appraisal:

I’m torn about this book. It’s a short read, on a subject where my existing knowledge was miniscule, at best, before reading it. Now I think my knowledge is slightly greater. I know a bit more than I did and have some direction for investigating ideas and concepts in more detail, either via other books or searching the internet. At least from what little I knew and knowledge I had from other areas (stock investing, for one) where some of the same ideas and concepts apply to some degree, what the book said, while basic, seems credible.

However, the author tells us nothing, either in the book or on an Amazon author’s page as to what makes them an expert on this subject. The number of proofreading issues I spotted (typos, wrong words, etc) were enough that I’d consider it problematic in a novel of 10-20 times as many words, which gave me concerns about the author’s attention to detail. But I’ll reiterate, the information seems limited, but accurate, so if you’re interested in learning more about this subject, this might be a good start if you have no knowledge and from here you’ll get a sense as to whether you want to pursue more details and, if so, which areas interest you most.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

Too many typos or wrong words and other proofing issues for such a short read.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 5-6,000 words

Friday, September 25, 2020

Review: The Spirit of Laughter by Johnathan R. Rose

 


Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Description:

“Francisco Roberto Morelos is trapped in a school run by a cruel, sadistic, corrupt principal nicknamed Evil Espinosa, and she has chosen him to perform a Herculean task. As punishment for disobedience, he must paint 92 portraits of his classmates on a giant wall surrounding the school. He has only 3 weeks to do it, and the portraits must be perfect, or he will face terrible consequences. In his quest to bring those students to life on the wall, Francisco embarks on a journey into their hearts, minds and lives, where he discovers just how much Evil has affected each and every one of them. Evil can only win for so long however, and as his journey comes to an end, Francisco discovers that laughter is not just a means to oppose it, but a potent weapon that can be used to destroy it.

Inspired by the murals of victims of Evil painted on walls throughout Mexico, The Spirit of Laughter is a story about no longer accepting and enduring what Evil dishes out, but standing up and laughing in its face. So laugh, loud and proud, in the face of Evil, just as the children laugh.

A valuable antidote during this time when so many of our leaders are making toxic decisions.”

Author:

A native of Ontario, Canada where he recently returned to live, Johnathan R. Rose has a long history of wanderlust, having visited 35 countries, and lived in Mexico and Central America for nearly 12 years, before returning to Canada. This is his second novel.

Appraisal:

If you’ve ever read a book or watched a movie where the good guy is an underdog who is trying to win a battle against the bad guy who holds the strings of power, you’ve got the basic idea of this story, at least from a high-level perspective. But I doubt you’ve ever read something quite like this version of that particular trope. That Francisco is young and still figuring things out makes you pull for him even more than you might normally in what’s setup as a battle between good and evil. You might also feel like there is a lesson here for people much older than Francisco, like maybe Ms Espinosa is a stand in for others people who abuse the power they’ve been given, and I think you’re right there too. Whether you take it at face value or prefer to read deeper meanings into it, this story is a thoroughly enjoyable read that I highly recommend.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: Dead in the Water by Donna Collins

 


Genre: Thriller/Crime/Mystery

Description:

“Jason Wade is an East End boxer-turned-Police Crime Scene Investigator. He likes his job, has a good circle of friends, and is never short of female admirers. But, although on the outside his life looks an enviable one, behind closed doors he has more than one secret hidden away. When a female body is dragged from the Thames, the skeletons from Jason's past quickly begin to resurface and his near-perfect life slowly begins to spiral out of control. But, when a second victim is pulled from the Thames with amnesia, Jason questions if the two accidents are related to each other. With none of his colleagues believing there is a link between the two incidences, and ordered to stay away from the case by his boss, will investigating these seemingly unrelated cases lead Jason to his own downfall, and how many of his friends will he take with him?”

Author:

A native of England, Donna Collins is a fan of 70s and 80s TV shows which along with her reading books from the same time period she attributes as the reason she likes dark mysteries and thrillers, not just to read, but to write. Along with writing, Ms Collins has worked for multiple law enforcements organizations, which should give her some different perspectives to influence her storytelling. This is her fourth book.

Appraisal:

This was a strange story, and I mean that in a positive way, in that it kept me guessing, wondering who the good guys were and who the bad. Some, with good reason, would say they were all bad guys. Why? Because every member of law enforcement with any significant mention in this story, including our hero and protagonist, Jason, were stretching rules at a minimum, if not actually breaking laws. However, since it is fiction, I found it easy enough to go along with the credo of the ends justifying the means. If we’re going to be fair, had all the good guys strictly followed the rules here, the story would have been a lot different, less entertaining, and not a very satisfying read. As it is this was an intense thriller that kept me interested and guessing where things were headed and how Jason was going to find and prove what he needed to. This is the first of a planned series and based on the ending, I think we’ve got at least one story thread for book two (if not subsequent books as well) setup already.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This is the first book in a series.

Author is from the UK and this is reflected in spelling conventions used.

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Reprise Review: Ice Diaries by Lexi Revellian

 



Genre: Romantic Thriller/Post-Apocalyptic

Description:

In 2018, the world’s population has been decimated by a virulent virus, and as if that’s not tough enough, a rapid freeze has covered England under snow and ice. London, where the story takes place, is buried by twenty meters of snow.

Author:

When she’s not writing fiction, Ms. Revellian designs and makes jewellery under her real name, Lexi Dick. She’s made pieces for Margaret Thatcher, 10 Downing Street, and Her Majesty the Queen.

Ice Diaries is her fifth novel. You can learn more about her at her website.

Appraisal:

In her Amazon author profile, Ms Revellian boasts that she has sold 60,000 self-published books. After reading Ice Diaries, my only question would be, “Why so few?”

I had a terrific time sharing a snow-swamped London with the characters in Ice Diaries. The author’s writing style is about as easy on the eye as any I can remember--like listening to a compelling after-dinner story told by a fascinating guest.

I particularly enjoyed the makeshift communities I spent time in with Tori, the twenty-three year-old protagonist. Her engaging nature and irreverent wit had me smiling, a lot. Tori hangs out with a small group of liberal-types. They have dug tunnels below the snow and live off the contents of the buried stores. This small group of survivors squat in apartments still above the snow level, furnish themselves with necessities from Argos (for Americans, think Sears), and live in hope that someone in the warmer south will send a helicopter to rescue them.

Along with Tori, I enjoyed her group of characters and the naive structure they force on themselves to retain a level of civility. They establish foraging rules and game nights and dinner parties—very British, in an eccentric but nice way.

Along comes Morgan, a rough, brooding, and dangerous cage fighter. He turns Tori’s head, forcing her to look outside the quaint but unrealistic life she has fallen into. When Morgan’s ex-gang members come looking for him, the pleasant balance of Tori’s community is turned upside down. Drawing on an inner strength that surprises everyone including Morgan, in the end she finds a way out of their difficulties, and in the process changes all their lives.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Ice Diaries by Lexi Revellianwas a nominee in the Thriller category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran October 24, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

English (UK) spelling.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Friday, September 18, 2020

Review: Blood by Choice by Rob Pierce




 

Genre: Noir/Hard-Boiled/Crime Fiction

Description:

“Two women and a child are murdered. Dust, who unknowingly set them up, returns to Berkeley to find the killer. With his old buddy Karma in tow, Dust discovers that one of the culprits was Vollmer, a ruthless hired gun working for Dust’s former boss, Rico. When Vollmer finds out Dust is in town the hunt becomes mutual.

In this, the third book of the Uncle Dust series, old debts are paid and new ones incurred. Brutish, dangerous men lurk in every corner and slaughter runs rampant.”

Author:

“Rob Pierce wrote the novels Uncle Dust and With The Right Enemies, the novella Vern In The Heat, and the short story collection The Things I Love Will Kill Me Yet. Editor of Swill Magazine, an editorial consultant with All Due Respect Books, and co-editor at Flash Fiction Offensive, Rob has been nominated for a Derringer Award for short crime fiction and has had stories published in numerous ugly magazines. He lives and will probably die in Oakland, California.”

Appraisal:

The protagonist of this book is technically named Dustin, but his nickname, Dust, fits him much better. Why? Well generally because he’s dirty, as in not a very nice person in many ways. He’s done a lot of bad things in his life and they don’t stop in our story here. But it’s easy to forgive him, even as the body counts are steadily climbing as the story goes on, because Dust is back on the streets of the East Bay, mainly in Oakland and Berkeley, with the intent of finding whoever it was that killed two of his former girlfriends along with a child of one of them. Those deaths might have happened in an effort to get Dust back in the Bay Area so the local crime boss could exact some revenge. Doesn’t matter. Dust can’t let this go unanswered. If you’re really into hard-boiled, maybe you like your hard-boiled eggs as hard as a rock and the bodies piled up as high as a San Francisco high rise, then this is definitely the book for you.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

This genre isn’t the one to read if you’re offended by strong language, adult situations, or violence of any kind in your reading material. Consider yourself warned. It appears that this is the third book in a series featuring Dust, but this story stands alone well, there is no need to have read prior books in the series to understand what is going on in this one.

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on an advance reader 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

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Review: The Lost Village Haunting by Geoffrey Sleight

 



Genre: Ghosts/Supernatural

Description:

“Adam Collins buys an old cottage by the sea to relax when warned his high pressure job could lead to an early heart attack. But ghosts of a nearby fishing village that many years ago collapsed into the sea return to haunt him. Soon he is drawn into a supernatural world which increasingly threatens his future with unfolding strange events.”

Author:

Geoffrey Sleight is a British novelist who writes paranormal mystery thrillers. Feel free to check out Mr. Sleight’s other books on his website.

Appraisal:

When Adam Collins retires from his high stress job in London, he decides to buy a rundown cottage with the goal of refurbishing the house and property. It’s located at the top of a cliff that has beautiful scenery overlooking the ocean. Adam plans to pursue his artistic talent by sketching and painting the area.

The cottage Adam purchases isn’t inherently evil, but it is imbued with the history of Coatehaven, the fishing village that dramatically collapsed into the ocean two hundred years ago. As Adam is drawn into the historic area he struggles separating the supernatural world he is drawn into from reality. It was hard for me to accept that Adam would buy into the ghostly images when he knew the history, but bit by bit reality slipped away.

The ending could have ended several different ways and I was surprised by the direction it took. It did tie up the other thread, which I didn’t discuss. It dealt with how Adam rationalizes his kids and the wife he was separated from. This added another dimension to the story I’ll allow the reader to muddle over. I will say it shocked me…

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

There were two well deserved F-bombs.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Monday, September 14, 2020

Lola Hopscotch and the First Day of School by Marie Whittaker

 



Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Description:

“Lola Hopscotch is a bashful bunny who is confronted by mean-spirited children at school. Lola stands up for herself and overcomes her sadness, transforming her first day of school into a wondrous day of new friendship and adventure. This story deals with the issue of childhood bullying and rounds out with a wonderful communication hook, picturesque prose, and artistic illustrations by Lily Uivel. Lily captures Lola’s personality and surroundings perfectly as the little bunny triumphs past bashfulness and spreads kindness.

Feeling bashful about the first day of school, Lola Hopscotch is off to the playground. This timid bunny’s world is shaken when other children make fun of her long ears and big feet.

But Lola has much to say and it’s time to play! She meets new friends and stands up for herself, even teaching the children how to play her favorite game. Can you guess which game is Lola’s favorite?”

Author:

“Marie Whittaker is an award-winning essayist and cross-genre author of fantasy, thrillers, and children’s books. She is the creator of The Adventures of Lola Hopscotch, which is a children’s book series concentrating on getting sensitive childhood issues out in the open between children and adults. Many of her award-winning short stories appear in numerous anthologies and publications. A Colorado native, Marie resides in Manitou Springs with her two dogs, two cats, and two bunnies, where she writes and enjoys renovating her historic Victorian home. She spends time hiking, gardening, and indulging in her guilty pleasure of shopping for handbags. A lover of animals, Marie is an advocate against animal abuse and assists with lost pets in her community.”

Appraisal:

The first thing I did with this book was put it on my Kindle Fire and have my barely seven-year-old granddaughter who is on the verge of finishing up first grade give it a read. When she finished I gave her a short quiz. Did you read it? Yes. Did you like it? Yes. So far, so good.

A few days later I sat her down with the intent of reading the book to her and to see what I thought of the story. The first page had some words that seemed to be stretching the vocabulary of a first grader. A quick quiz determined that she hadn’t actually read the book to herself, but used the capability the Fire has to read it to her. I started reading and as I turned the page she told me that she “really, really likes the pictures in this book.” That has to be a good sign. Partway through I had her read a page or two. Turns out she can sound out those more difficult words better than I’d have guessed and while reading some of these words might be a challenge, that’s reasonable for a relatively new reader. Younger kids will love you reading them the story of Lola’s first day at school and slightly older kids will be reading it on their own.

Of course the most important thing is the story. It’s well-told and has a good lesson. The aforementioned pictures do a great job of illustrating and supporting the story. I’d recommend it and the little blonde girl who read it with me concurs.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 1,000 words

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Review: Scarred Soul of a Grieving Daughter by Bette Hepler

 



Genre: Suspense

Description:

“An accidental encounter with her father's killer leads her down a dangerous road of revenge and murderous madness where the only outcome seems to be total destruction of her or the killer...or both. A psychological drama that portrays the disruption of an idyllic, vital, beloved father-daughter relationship and how the contrasts of the wounds of loss, and development of a kind of justice, payback, and compassion unfold.”

Author:

“Bette Hepler is the author of the new novel, Scarred Soul of a Grieving Daughter. Bette grew up in Washington, D.C., earning a Master's Degree in Social Work at Catholic University. She has maintained a private practice in psychotherapy for over thirty years and still loves her work. She's an avid reader of fiction, especially psychological thrillers. Writing a psychodrama was always her dream, and after periods of self-doubt and procrastinating, it became a reality. A tragic event in her life was the catalyst for her to finally write a story in which she weaves her experience and skills as a psychotherapist into a tense-filled drama of truth and fiction. Bette lives in Maryland with her husband, Gary, and, on any given day, when she's not working, you can bet she's engrossed in reading another page-turning thriller.”

Appraisal:

Although a novel, the Amazon listing for this book has the tagline “Inspired by True Events” as part of the title. In the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book the author explains that the book started out as a memoir, but then evolved into fiction. At the end of the main story the author psychoanalyzes herself, to a point, explaining why she thinks what started out as a memoir turned into something else. An addendum or supplement section even includes some of the sections cut from the earlier drafts of the book when the author made the decision to switch to fiction. All of that is interesting as background. Once you’re read the main story you might want to peruse the author’s note and the supplement, but ultimately that’s not the main story here.

The main story is interesting because, in spite of the reworking I later found out had been done, it felt like a memoir at first. I knew it was fiction, with some truth (that “inspired by” part) but exactly how much wasn’t clear. As things progressed it started feeling like fiction, but where the line between truth and fiction landed was not very clear. This was a positive in one way. The “memoir like” aspects gave the story more credibility (the protagonist and the events that happened to her that set the foundation of the story felt real, because she was real, as were the story’s foundation). But it also left me feeling off balance and thinking strange things. “Is this real-life therapist really treating the guy who killed her father? Is she going to kill him?” Not knowing where the lines were made it easier to believe, but harder to imagine some potential outcomes or to even seriously consider what I think I might do in the same situation. So, this aspect had both pros and cons. Whether fact or fiction, or some point in between, it was a heart-wrenching story that should get your mind reeling and struggling with the possibilities of what you might do in the same situation.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A small amount of adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Reprise Review: The Atheist's Prayer by Amy R. Biddle

 



Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Description:

“After a solar eclipse nearly two years ago, nineteen people were found dead in a remote area of the California National Forest. They were lying in a circle, holding hands and wearing plastic fairy wings.

Years later, on the other side of the country, no one in the southern city of Jefferson is concerned about fairies or fairy-worshiping suicide cults. Except for Candy. She might not have proof, but she’s damn sure it’s going to happen again.

The problem is, Candy is a coke-dealing stripper and the only person who will listen to her is an alcoholic mall Santa named Hank, who’s only listening because, well… she’s hot.

There are seven days until the next eclipse.”

Author:

"Born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Amy now spends half of her life at sea and the other half wherever the hell she pleases. An avid traveler and dangerous daydreamer, she is most at home when surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains or the great blue sea."

For more, visit Biddle's website.

Appraisal:

At first glance the title of The Atheist’s Prayer might repel the more religious while attracting non-believers. That initial impression is not only too simplistic an interpretation of the title (why would an atheist be praying?), but also assuming way too much. That isn’t to say that belief in a deity or the lack of such belief doesn’t figure into the story.

The characters in the book run the gamut of beliefs with my favorite, seven year-old Kevin, trying to make sense of it all. All the major characters are multi-dimensional and, like real people, refuse to conform to stereotype. Those that, at first blush, seem to have little going for them, confound that impression in the end, while those that seem to be among the best of people, show that appearances can be deceiving. In the end, they’re all human, with flaws and good qualities that aren’t immediately apparent.

No matter where you stand personally, if you approach The Atheist’s Prayer with an open mind, it will help illustrate the potential, both good and bad, in all people, regardless of which deity (if any) they choose to believe in.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Minor (and not very explicit) adult situations.

Added for Reprise Review: The Atheist's Prayer by Amy R. Biddle was a nominee in the Contemporary/General Fiction category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran February 28, 2014.

Format/Typo Issues:

I was given an advanced reader copy which might be different from the final copy.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review: All of Me by Andrea Smith

 



Genre: Romantic Comedy

Description:

“Dirk Sexton is a thirty year old playboy with a conscience.

He wants the sex without feeling the guilt of his meaningless one night stands.

Deciding to take a chance, he finally takes the leap only to realize that he may just have chosen the wrong sister.

Autumn Dey, Dirk's newest employee at his radio station, may be Summer Dey's twin sister, but they are definitely not identical. Summer is tall and toned . . . and well Autumn isn't.

When Summer starts dating her sister's gorgeous new boss, Dirk Sexton, Autumn slides herself into the friend zone, admiring from afar.

Until, that is, Autumn's alter ego (and 900 operator "Ramona") discovers Dirk's true desires.

Will love truly conquer all?”

Author:

“Andrea Smith offers her readers a plethora of romance and suspense genres to enjoy!

From New Adult Romance, YA Suspense, M/M Romance, MMF Romance, Paranormal Romance, and Rom Com, Ms. Smith has it all. Her unexpected plot twists are just one of her signature traits; she also infuses clever humor and sprinkles of satire in her novels. Her unique style is what her readers love most. She is no one-trick pony, and promises her readers she'll never publish ’cookie-cutter‘ fiction.”

Appraisal:

All of Me was a wonderful surprise. It’s smartly written, fun, unexpected, and humorous. The characters were realistic, witty, and well rounded. Autumn Dey is a phone sex operator who goes by Ramona and has a sexy southern drawl. She thinks her voice is her best asset and her dream job would be a radio show. Dirk Sexton is the manager of radio station WQRK, Quirk-99 in Indianapolis. He is looking for a host for Midnight Caller, a new late night call-in program. Dirk is also having a crisis of conscience about his playboy lifestyle which is complicating his personal life.

Autumn’s twin sister, Summer, took me a while to warm up to. She’s tall, thin, beautiful and full of herself. However, she plays an important role in Autumn’s life and with a surprising twist she finds herself on a growth in character journey as well. 

Dirk feels like he’s found the golden ticket with Autumn as host of Midnight Caller. The stations ratings are going up. Dirk’s phone relationship with Ramona is ongoing. He’s never used her for phone sex, only an ear to listen to his woes, sympathize, perhaps offer him advice, or give him another perspective. She has become his call-in psychiatrist. Until the day it all implodes.

The plot has a nice pace and loads of twists to muddle things up. All of Me would be a great summer vacation read or a wonderful winters day read to warm things up.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

All of Me, is a BBW (Big Beautiful Women) romantic comedy. There are sexual scenes some may not be comfortable with. I thoroughly enjoyed them. There are also several F-bombs.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Review: You Can See More From Up Here by Mark Guerin

 



Genre: Coming-of-Age, Contemporary Fiction

Description:

“In 2004, when middle-aged Walker Maguire is called to the deathbed of his estranged father, his thoughts return to 1974. He'd worked that summer at the auto factory where his dad, an unhappily retired Air Force colonel, was employed as plant physician. Witness to a bloody fight falsely blamed on a Mexican immigrant, Walker kept quiet, fearing his white co-workers and tyrannical father. Lies snowball into betrayals, leading to a life-long rift between father and son that can only be mended by the past coming back to life and revealing its long-held secrets. You Can See More From Up Here is a coming-of-age tale about the illusion of privilege and the power of the past to inform and possibly heal the present.”

Author:

“Mark Guerin is a 2014 graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program in Boston. He also has an MFA from Brandeis University and is a winner of an Illinois Arts Council Grant, the Mimi Steinberg Award for Playwriting and Sigma Tau Delta's Eleanor B. North Poetry Award. A contributor to the novelist’s blog, Dead Darlings, he is also a playwright, copywriter and journalist. He currently resides in Harpswell, Maine, with his wife, Carol, and two Brittany Spaniels.”

Appraisal:

This book is interesting. As I see it, a coming-of-age story appeals to people for a number of reasons. One is that a coming-of-age story typically has the protagonist going through a difficult situation and we like to root for them to bring the situation to a happy resolution. We feel good about that. It can also be thought provoking as we compare situations like this we’ve been in or, if we’ve never experienced anything quite like this, we can consider how we think we’d react if we found ourselves in the same kind of spot. I find myself on edge, like a good mystery, as the story unfolds and I wonder how the protagonist is going to resolve the issue, hoping the find their way to a happy solution.

This story has all those things that you’d expect in a coming-of-age story, but twice. It’s like the protagonist is coming of age twice at the same time. The contemporary story line has the protagonist, Walker, back in his hometown for the first time in many years and his estranged father in the hospital on his deathbed. Walker is trying to come to terms with a situation that played out thirty years ago that ended with him leaving town and severing ties with his dad. As he’s working through things in the current day, we get one coming-of-age thread that is especially unique for the advanced age of the protagonist going through the crisis. But as he is thinking things through, he remembers the sequence of events that led to his exit thirty years ago, which gives us another coming-of-age story thread that is more in tune with the norm, at least in terms of the age of the protagonist.

I found this story to be engrossing, not only because I enjoy a good coming-of-age story, but also because I could relate to a person of a certain age looking back on difficult life choices and evaluating them, not only in terms of whether they made sense at the time, but also on the results that have come as a consequence of them. It was an entertaining and thought-provoking story that had me wondering what the ultimate resolution was going to be right up to the end.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofreading errors and misses.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 130-135,000 words

Friday, September 4, 2020

Reprise Review: Orla's Code by Fiona Pearse


 


Genre: Women’s Fiction

Description:

“‘If you want to get ahead, get noticed,’ is Orla Hanlon’s motto. New to London and the first female programmer at CouperDaye, a global investment bank, she takes on a high-profile but controversial project.

With her new luxury apartment and a work-romance quietly on the side, Orla thinks she has everything under control.

Until a bug in her code causes chaos on the trading floor and Orla finds herself a scapegoat in a corporate game, fighting to save her new life in London.”

Author:

“Fiona Pearse was born in Dublin, Ireland and has been a software developer for 15 years. Now settled in London, she writes financial software and is working on her second novel. She is also a blogger and poet with several poems in literary journals.”

For more, visit the author’s website.

Appraisal:

As the first female computer programmer at her new employer, Orla has to deal with the obvious issue of being a novelty among her peers, along with some of the all-too-typical management issues and job challenges typically found in a software development shop. I was impressed with the author’s ability to communicate the challenges of Orla’s job without sinking into tech-talk or too much detail for the layperson.

Much of the story conflict comes from Orla’s struggle to balance her work goals, her personal life, and possibly sneak in a little sex (surely romance and a fuller relationship would be asking too much). Overall, Orla’s Code was a quick, fun read.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Adult language and some mild adult content.

Added for Reprise Review: Orla's Code by Fiona Pearse was a nominee in the Chick-Lit/Women's Fiction category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran February 22, 2014.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words