Monday, August 31, 2020

Among the Dead by Stephen A. Kennedy

 


Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Description:

“A pandemic sweeps across the globe. Everything shuts down. Airports, businesses, schools. Cell phone service and electricity soon follow. The virus turns people insane, causing them to attack anything that moves. Armed forces are quickly overrun, and every citizen is in a fight for their life.

Samantha survives the initial onslaught of infected. But now she decides to venture out from upstate New York to find her husband, who was stranded in Los Angeles. Determined to be reunited with her love, she sets out through the hell that the United States has become.

Along the way, she meets Jason, another survivor, who was separated from his wife in Flagstaff, Arizona. They decide to travel together, helping each other reach their spouses. They soon find they’ll have to make difficult decisions in order to survive.

But how long can someone cling to their values and morals in a world that has abandoned such things?”

Author:

A native of Kansas, Stephen A. Kennedy has been writing for several years. This appears to be his first book of a planned trilogy. For more, checkout his Facebook page.

Appraisal:

I think it would be fair to say that my thoughts and feelings about this book are contradictory and all over the place. It felt like it had a lot of proofing issues, but when I reviewed my notes it hadn’t gone over the limit I’ve set where I’ll start deducting stars from the ranking for that reason, although it came very close to that line. I found that I liked the characters, enjoyed getting to know them, and was pulling for them, curious as to where the story was going to go.

The pandemic at the heart of the story hit close to home, as it might with most potential readers, and yet is enough different from the reality that it isn’t hitting too close. Yet that aspect helped draw me in more than that kind of thing has when I’ve read post-apocalyptic books involving a pandemic in the past.

I hadn’t registered that this was intended to be the first of a trilogy, but didn’t expect the story to come to a clean end for the characters, only a clean ending for this phase of the overall story, which it did. I can’t explain my thinking or any of the details without it being a spoiler, but I can say that the ending of this book hit me wrong. It made it feel like what I thought I knew about one character was a lie. The reaction of the other main character, especially in light of some other significant recent events, seemed illogical. Instead of leaving me wondering what was going to happen in book two I was left wondering if I really wanted to know or still cared enough about the characters to find out.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

Borderline with lots of proofing issues, but not quite enough to impact the rating.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Reprise Review: Yucatan Dead by DV Berkom

 


Genre: Thriller

Description:

“She was a dangerous man's lover…now she's his dangerous enemy.

For Kate Jones, being on the run from her former lover—the vicious leader of a Mexican drug cartel—was never going to be easy. But with a new identity, a new lover, and a new life in northern Arizona, she was beginning to believe she'd made it through the worst.

Then, in an act of twisted revenge, Kate's kidnapped and imprisoned by her deadly enemy, his intention to force her to pay back the money she stole before he kills her.”

Author:

“The author of two bestselling thriller series featuring strong female protagonists, Berkom grew up on a steady diet of spy novels, James Bond movies and mysteries. Her natural inclination is to keep the reader on the edge of their seat and guessing until the last page.

Raised in the Midwest, she received her BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Several years and at least a dozen moves later, she now lives outside of Seattle, Washington with her sweetheart Mark, an ex-chef-turned-contractor, and writes whenever she gets a chance.”

For more, visit her website.

Appraisal:

I enjoy books with kick-ass female protagonists and Kate Jones fits the bill perfectly. When the going gets tough, she keeps going. Yucatan Dead ratchets up the tension from the start as Kate deals with hit women, warring Mexican drug cartels, and unofficial paramilitary organizations. Survival is never a given.

However, what stuck out for me, even more than Kate’s kick-assed-ness (yeah, sometimes I make up words, I wonder if this will get past Amazon’s censors) is the sense of humor, often in the descriptions. I found myself laughing, even as I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. This isn’t typical of a thriller and I’m not sure many authors could pull it off, but Berkom does. One example was explaining that “Kidnappers R Us wasn't known for their customer service.” Another was this description which was just over the top enough to get a chuckle from me:

A rusty metal bunk squatted against the right side of the tent, its sheet stretched tight across the top and tucked under the mattress with precision. Try bouncing a quarter off of that and it'd end up embedded in the roof.

A fun read and, for those just hearing about the Kate Jones Thriller Series, one with a healthy backlist to keep you in reading material for a while.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language and mild adult content.

Although the sixth book of the Kate Jones Thriller Series, what back story was needed to understand Kate and the story was included, so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Reading this as a standalone isn’t a problem.

Added for Reprise Review: Yucatan Dead by DV Berkom was a nominee in the Thriller category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran September 6, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Review: Fierce Winds and Fiery Dragons by Nan Sweet

 


Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Adventure

Description:

“Ivy and Carrie love their new classroom even if the new teacher is a little strange. When Mrs. Huffity asks for volunteers to care for an egg, Ivy doesn’t budge. She’s had a few scary dreams about that egg and wants nothing to do with it.

But when trouble comes, Ivy defends the egg. In her desire to save the baby that hatches, Ivy is tossed into the middle of an adventure. She discovers more than she ever wanted to know about fierce winds and fiery dragons.”

Author:

“About Nan Sweet: I don't eat dragons, fairies, or toadstools, although I will admit to swallowing the occasional gnat. One really couldn't swallow a dragon or fairy without full knowledge. In addition, I write. You'll find my books are full of adventures and well, dragons. Soon I'll be entering a new galaxy with a science fiction adventure. I look forward to seeing you there.”

To learn more about Ms. Sweet you can visit her website or follow heron Facebook.

Appraisal:

Fierce Winds and Fiery Dragons is quite an elaborate fantasy tale. Ivy and Carrie are best friends starting fifth grade with a teacher who is new to the school. Mrs. Huffity is strange. Her voice changes to a low gravely sound at times and she says what sounds like a prophecy to the girls. Mrs. Huffity seems to be hiding this colorful egg by assigning kids to take the egg home with them and then bring it back to class the following day. All the kids think the egg is a fake, except Ivy, who has been having bad dreams about the egg. However, when Ivy and Carrie see David, who was assigned to babysit the egg, stuff the egg in his locker for the night, they break into his locker and take the egg for safe keeping.

Both girls are thrown into a fantasy world full of strange creatures. Carrie is captured and thrown into a cage in an underground world whose inhabitants live in darkness. Ivy ends above ground, abandoned after a heroic rescue mission. Then she navigates this strange world trying to find Mrs. Huffity or Carrie, while trying not to get eaten.

This is a unique story that will capture a middle grade student’s interest with an adventure that is exciting, a bit tense, and a bit frightening at times. Fierce Winds and Fiery Dragons also explores familial dynamics and friendships. The journey of these two friends were different, and fun to watch as they grew more confident in their ability to face whatever life throws at them.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Fierce Winds and Fiery Dragons is book 1 in Sweet’s, Dusky Hollows Series.

Format/Typo Issues:

The only significant proofing issue I found was the author spelled Barry’s name, Barrie -- one time. Barry is a secondary character so it was a minor detail to me.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Review: Hunting Abigail by Jeremy Costello

 


Genre: Psychological Thriller

Description:

“There is a killer stalking the streets of London, taunting the police and playing God with innocent lives. At ten years old, Abigail Fuller is the only one to have survived coming face-to-face with the monster the headlines are calling the ‘Valentine Killer.’

Almost two decades later and Abigail is one of a small group of survivors from a trans-Indian Ocean plane crash. Stranded on a remote island, strange and unexplainable events begin to roll through the dejected camp while the vast blue horizon shows no signs of a rescue.

Is the island not as deserted as the survivors thought? Or has Abigail's past come hurtling into the present and the predator from her childhood stalks amongst them!”

Author:

A native of the UK, Jeremy Costello has several novels he’s written, but Hunting Abigail is the first that he’s releasing for the world to read. Another, Breaking Nathan, a suspense novel, is being prepared for a future release. For more, check out his website.

Appraisal:

As the book’s description explains, Hunting Abigail takes place over two periods of time, roughly twenty years apart. Abigail Fuller, a ten-year-old in the first period, is the character common to both periods of time. The story jumps back and forth between these two periods. At first, I found myself getting confused when the book jumped periods and I’m not sure why as when ever a jump was made it was at a chapter break and clearly labeled with a date, so I’m going to say the fault for this wasn’t him (the author) but me. The other thing I found was I kept getting surprised. Several times all through the book, but especially in the first third of it, I found myself surprised at a twist the story took, a twist that made perfect sense in the context of the story, but that I never saw coming. That’s a positive, at least for this genre.

An edge of the seat thriller that kept me guessing, shocking me at the unexpected twists. Had me pulling for the good guys while I tired to figure out who the bad guys actually were. Definitely one that thriller readers should enjoy.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The author uses spelling conventions you’d expect from a native of the UK. So adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

The version I reviewed was an advance reader copy and I can’t gauge the final product in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Review: The Adventures of G Man by Boris Wang

 


Genre: Humor/Satire

Description:

“Say hello to G Man – Beaver City’s newest superhero.

When a bungled science experiment endows Arthur Pinkerton with super powers – and a giant phallus - he becomes the unlikely champion of the defenseless. But will he be able to sustain his erection long enough to rid the city of its criminal underclass? And will he be able to defeat the feared crime boss, Carmelita Cameltoe, or will it all end in a premature capitulation?

Read this exciting new book to find out!”

Author:

“Boris Wang is a legendary storyteller in his own mind. He lives in a small house by the lake where he drinks coffee, reads comics and serves as aide-de-camp to a pair of demanding Siamese cats. When he’s not updating his Tinder profile or plotting global domination, he tries to write stories about superheroes with very unusual abilities.”

Appraisal:

Well that was different. Just trying to nail down the genre of this novella will tell you a lot about it. There’s enough sex going on for erotica to be a reasonable description. But erotica takes their sex seriously and, while it’s seriously sex, I don’t think anyone involved from the author to the participants (other than maybe the star of this book, Arthur) are taking it very seriously. It’s downright funny. Maybe we can call it a humor book. But it’s not just funny, it’s also making fun of so many things. I’d call that satire. However, our star, Arthur, is also using what can accurately be called superpowers to fight crime (at least when his female friends can get him in the right mood to do so). So, I guess we’ve got a humorous, erotic, satirical superhero story. Bet you’ve never read one of those before.

In many ways I enjoyed this. The off the wall concept, not even trying to be subtle, was fun. (Look at the description for the names of the crime boss, the town where this takes place, or even the pen name the author has chosen.) At least for this relatively short read, the concept held up and the story line worked.

So, what’s the problem? Why only three stars? Non-existent proofreading. I’d be reading, trip over something, and discover it wasn’t Arthur’s bigger-than-real-life appendage, but a wrong or extra word. This happened way too much with me flagging twice as many issues as I’d have found marginally acceptable in a book two or three times as long. A little more (okay, a lot more) polish and this could be a fun, off-the-wall read that could appeal to a decent sized group of readers out there.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

One adult situation after another. While not exactly erotica, it isn’t exactly not either.

Format/Typo Issues:

Way, way, way too many proofing issues.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 19-20,000 words

Friday, August 21, 2020

Reprise Review: Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan

 


Genre: Fantasy

Description:

Carrie’s story is unique, she can not only read your mind she can see and read your soul. She had been damned by the actions of others thousands of years ago and the only reason Carrie wasn’t burning in Hell was that her ka, or life force, was unable to separate from her body. Her soul had been sold to Lucifer, and he is quite proud of his prize. After a several millennia Carrie finally finds a soul pure enough to fight for. Sebastian is not seeking redemption; he sold his soul for the greater good and is willing to pay the price. Carrie takes it upon herself to find a way to renegotiate his contract with the demon Keziel. To do this she must travel into the depths of hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways. As the cost of her journey rises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.

Author:

“Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.”

For more, visit her Amazon Author's page or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Elizabeth Corrigan did an excellent job developing her characters and she has taken minor liberties with some myths to make a more entertaining story, however she has tried to keep historical accuracy. I believe she succeeded. Carrie’s story is unique and I could appreciate how she lived her life. She has two longtime friends who check in with her, the first of these is the demon Bedlam. He truly is chaos in the most fun way and he is not a bad guy. Here is the way she describes their first meeting:

I detected neither the sanctimoniousness of the angels nor the malicious cruelty of the demons. Instead, I felt a spiral of rotating emotions that left me dizzy enough that I had to put my hand against a stone pillar for a moment to steady myself… The man’s current emotional state similarly seemed to lack any center, though it cycled around guilt, confusion, anger, and a firm desire to be distracted from those three emotions…

Bedlam says:

“Okay, so here’s my problem. You know how sometimes you start doing something, and it seems like a good idea at the time, but then suddenly there are dead bodies everywhere, and you’re not quite sure how that happened?” …

I would love to be able to share the story here, but Bedlam rambles, then continues with:

“Now, let me say right here that it was all supposed to be a joke. I really didn’t expect them to take it quite so literally. These were people who held on to their religion through generations of persecution and slavery. And a gold cow? Their religious texts say that God made them in His own image, so I thought they’d be pretty quick to dismiss that one.” “Not so much?” I asked. He shook his head.

Through all the years Bedlam has been a true friend to Carrie and has done everything in his power to protect her. Her other true friend is the earth-bound angel Gabriel who has stolen her heart, but he seems to love her no more than the rest of mankind. The story is fast moving and highly entertaining with a lot of thought provoking material. It was a fun roller coaster ride while it lasted. It would be very interesting to see how this journey affects the rest of Carrie’s existence.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan was a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran April 10, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on an advance reader copy of this book, so I’m unable to judge this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Review: The Pineys: My Cousin, the Piney by Tony DiGeroLamo

 


Genre: Horror/Comedy/Contemporary/Occult/Fantasy

Description:

“From the creator of the Jersey Devil comic book comes a story about four cousins cursed by their ancestors, brought together by destiny and trying to keep South Jersey from going to Hell.

In 1732, Mother Leeds gave birth to the infamous Jersey Devil, which has roamed the Pine Barrens ever since.

Or so the story goes…

The truth is, Mother Leeds was a witch and opened the portals to Hell unleashing hundreds of devils into woods. But the villagers next door in Abe’s Hat noticed and formed a secret hunting society to track down the fiends and send them back to the Abyss. Their descendants continue the Hunt in secret to this day.

So grab your pork roll, put on your Piney Power hat and join the hunt, because the Galloway cousins are coming to save you whether you like it or not.”

Author:

“Tony DiGerolamo is a New Jersey screenwriter, novelist, comic book writer, game designer and comedian. He is best known for his work on The Simpsons and Bart Simpson comic books. He has also been a joke writer for Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, a scriptwriter for Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and a blogger for Comedy Central’s Indecision website. You can see his current comics at the Webcomic Factory and Super Frat and his videos at YouTube and Bitchute.”

You can check out Mr. DiGerolamo’s website or his books on Amazon Author Page.

Appraisal:

My Cousin, the Piney is sort of a mash-up of Ghostbusters, except with tricky morphing devils, and the bumbling antics of the Keystone Cops. Due to the vengeance of a witch who opened a portal to hell hundreds of years ago in the woodlands around the small township of Abe Hat, The Piney cousins started a secret society to hunt devils and send them back to hell.

Now imagine you are Lewis, a gambler, who pulls off the expressway on the way to Atlantic City to get gas and ended up in Abe Hat. The locals stare at him strangely because no one just stops in Abe Hat unless they are cousins. For all they know he is a devil they haven’t seen before. Things start moving pretty fast and furious with twists and turns up the wazoo. It’s mostly a fun romp until Lewis gets sucked into one of the portals to Hell. Shelly has taken a liking to Lewis and decides to go save him. Now the cousins have to keep the portal open until Shelly brings Lewis back to the earthly plane. All the while the cousins battle the new devils who are taking advantage of the open portal. It’s all a stinkin’ bloody mess!

The ending was quite a surprise, I wasn’t sure how it was all going to come out. If you enjoy demons, devils, witches, ghosts, secret societies with a lot of humor you might enjoy the antics in this story.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

My Cousin, the Piney is book 1 in Tony DiGerolamo’s series, The Pineys.

Lots of F-Bombs.

Format/Typo Issues:

I want to say a small number of proofing issues. The two that bothered me the most, because they threw me out of the story, was when the author got character’s names mixed up. Which caused a star rating loss.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Monday, August 17, 2020

Review: A Sharp Medicine by Dale T. Phillips

 

Genre: Hard-Boiled Mystery

Description:

“Zack Taylor's life is once again in shambles. Having narrowly escaped death, guilty over the pain he's caused a loved one, he's hurting and angry. When looking into the disappearance of a reporter, Zack's death wish may be his cure for his troubles as he uncovers a world of corruption and evil in a world of politics, passion, and power.”

Author:

Dale Phillips has written several books in the Zack Taylor Mystery series, a supernatural thriller, non-fiction, and a ton of short stories and poetry. In the words of Weird Al, he also lost on Jeopardy (in spectacular fashion according to his bio on Amazon).

For more, visit Phillips’ website.

Appraisal:

This was a good read. A mystery that kept me guessing what the answer to what was at the bottom of the rabbit hole that protagonist Zack Taylor started down when he went looking for a reporter who had gone missing. Possibly needless to say, there was a lot to find, much more than Zack or I would have expected.

While the mystery was good and kept me on the edge of the seat, the character of Zack is what set this book apart from a typical mystery, even of the hard-boiled type. That’s because Zack has a questionable past. He’s done some things he shouldn’t have and now regrets. He’s trying to do good, at least in part to make up for those things in his past. Sometimes this gives him insight into the wrongdoers that someone else might not get. It also means that Zack doesn’t always feel as restrained by social and legal norms as most people would. This just adds to the tension and the not being sure what to expect element of the story. I guess you could even say that Zack can be a bit of a mystery himself.

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: 45-50,000 words


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Review: Mordecai's Ashes by Arlana Crane



Genre: Crime Fiction

Description:

“Karl Larsson is an out of work roughneck, home from the oil fields of Alberta and back on the coast for the first time in years. His wife has left him and his future looks bleak. Becoming a detective is the last thing on his mind, but when Karl learns that he has inherited his estranged grandfather’s agency he decides to take a chance.

He doesn’t expect much action in a city as small as Victoria, BC, but Karl soon finds that Victoria is only the base of operations. His grandfather’s business took him across the length and breadth of Vancouver Island, and the Island is a world unto itself, with a culture all its own.

When a reporter from a national news agency asks him to investigate a drug running operation on the Island, Karl is drawn into a dangerous game. Finding the truth sounds simple in theory, but as Karl delves deeper he begins to realize that more than his life may be at stake.”

Author:

“Arlana Crane is a fourth generation Vancouver Islander, currently living in Calgary, Alberta with her husband James. She loves to read, write, knit, play the ukulele and attend the theatre. Summer vacations will find her back on her beloved Island, enjoying the ocean and spoiling her niece and nephews.”

For more, visit Ms Crane’s website.

Appraisal:

In a work of crime fiction like this where a detective (whether pro or amateur) is trying to find out who has committed or (as in this case) is committing crimes, the biggest part of the appeal, what keeps you reading, is waiting for the investigator to catch the wrong doer(s). Not to mention wondering how he or she is going to do that, but also who it is going to be. Mordecai’s Ashes has all of that. But it has more.

Part of that “more” are the detectives (Karl who is assisted, much more than he probably anticipated, by his cousin Kelsey) who are completely new to this and still finding their way. As the series progresses, I expect that part will settle down, but it adds to this first installment. Karl has inherited his grandfather’s detective agency, a man he really never knew, nor realized was a private investigator. In fact, with a recent divorce and family who are only looking out for themselves, with the exception of cousin Kelsey, Karl’s non-work life isn’t going so well, so making a go of this new opportunity that just fell in his lap is even more critical than it would be for most people, and as a reader I felt it.

This was a good entertaining read in a new series from a new author. I’m looking forward to future books in the series. A twist near the end has me curious about where things are going to go from here.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Review: Severed Wings by Steven-Elliot Altman



Genre: Fantasy/Erotic Romance/Paranormal/Contemporary

Description:

“Brandon Jones, a handsome, hopeful young actor, stands on the verge of fame and fortune—when a car accident shatters his life, bringing his career to a screeching halt. Isolating himself, he cuts off his friends and family, turns to booze for companionship, and withdraws to a small apartment on Sunset Boulevard. Now, the only people he interacts with are a drag queen and a student working her way through college as an escort.

Brandon has nothing to live for…until a startlingly beautiful young couple moves in across the hall. Spying through the peephole in his door, he grows increasingly obsessed with his new neighbors—and the parade of damaged strangers who visit them at all hours.

Then something seemingly impossible happens that convinces him that this mysterious couple can help restore all he lost.

Brandon insinuates himself into their lives, and finds himself on a journey from despair into hope—as an ancient secret from the dawn of time draws him head to head with a terrifying foe, bent on destroying everything he’s now come to love.”

Author:

“Steven-Elliot Altman is a bestselling author, screenwriter, graphic novelist and video game designer. Steve's novels include Captain America is Dead, Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires, Batman: Fear Itself, The Killswitch Review, The Irregulars, and Deprivers. He's also the editor of the critically-acclaimed anthology The Touch, and a contributor to Shadows Over Baker Street, a Hugo Award Winning anthology of Sherlock Holmes Stories. Steve's also the current Vice-Chairman of the steering committee of the Writers Guild of America's Video Game Division.”

Appraisal:

Brandon Jones is an up and coming actor on the brink of hitting the big time when a devastating car wreck leaves him paralyzed from the waist down. After a few months of living in his parents’ house he decides he couldn’t properly wallow in his misery living there. With the help of the screen actors’ union and government assistance he finds a handicap adapted studio apartment he can afford at Villa Rosa on Sunset Blvd. His next order of business was to fill the refrigerator, the liquor cabinet, and gather delivery menus. Now he has to extract himself from all friends and family as he contemplates suicide.

The Villa Rose apartments are mostly inhabited by society’s misfits. Down the hall from Brandon lives Ray, a drag queen, he is a quirky character who adds humor and levity to the story to counter Brandon’s dark moods. Bethany lives on a lower level, she is a student working her way through college as an escort. Brandon meets her while doing laundry. They strike up a friendship.

Things get interesting when a mysterious couple, Desmond and Kyra, move in across the hall. The plot takes a turn when Brandon becomes obsessed with Kyra’s beauty and spies on her whenever he catches her in a window. He also notices the strange people who come to visit late at night. Brandon makes an effort to insinuate himself into his newest neighbors lives. Then the dreams start.

Brandon has no idea what he has gotten himself into. But he feels like Kyra can heal his injury so he can walk again, so whatever the price to pay will be worth the risk. Mr. Altman does a great job building his secret world and the descriptions of setting up scenes throughout the book are rich and realistic. The culminating battle on the roof of Villa Rosa was epic. Brandon’s journey from despair to hope and then back to despair again was difficult to read and I had to wonder if he had the inner strength to pull himself through, especially after he had made his peace with death.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Not all sex scenes are behind closed doors. Adult language with several F-bombs.

Format/Typo Issues:

I was provided an ARC, so I can’t provide a comment on the finished product.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Reprise Review: One Day in the Life of Jason Dean by Ian Ayris


Genre: Crime Fiction

Description:

Jason Dean is going to have his worst day ever. First, he has to collect some debts. Then he has to kill a man.

Author:

Ian Ayris has had a love of writing since childhood and has had some forty short stories published, most recently a novel, Abide With Me. Ian is currently studying for a degree in English Literature. He lives with his family in Essex in the UK.

Appraisal:

This is one of the best stories I’ve ever read. There, I’ve said it. And I’m not taking it back. I’ll explain why…

We wake up very early one morning with Jason, he’s in bed with his wife who loathes him but we’ve no idea why. He tells us he’s going to have a very bad day, in fact Jason must have one of the longest faces in literature. He’s truly unhappy. Whilst having some food and a coffee in perhaps the worst cafĂ© in the world Jason reveals he’s got to collect some cash for a local hard man, Micky Archer, then kill a guy.

Jason goes to see Micky to find out the names of who has to pay. In an incredible scene, the two hard men argue about Wagner and Shostakovich of all things. It transpires that Jason, despite living on one of the worse estates in the country (which Ayris deftly paints, a perfect backdrop) is extremely well read (although not well schooled which comes over in the narration).

Jason proceeds on his debt appropriation mission with mixed success, including witnessing a suicide. Whilst walking around this hellhole dealing with the locals, the hard man treats us to insights on the classical music he listens to, the books and poetry he’s read, and how they make him feel. Like Sylvia Plath and the parallels she draws to Jason’s life. It’s totally at odds with the person we’re reading about, adds real dimension to Jason’s character, and throws his surroundings into stark contrast. He doesn’t want to be who he is, but Jason feels he has no choice. He doesn’t want to murder a man, but he must. Another brilliantly written scene.

Throughout the story, Jason is also thinking about his daughter, Sophie. Towards the end of the book he reveals why he has such a heavy heart in a truly emotional, heart-wrenching scene. I really wish I could tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. It completely caught me out and brought everything to a well thought out conclusion.

The characters, besides Jason, are excellent. I particularly like Micky. Finally Jason’s monologue and the dialogue are both excellent, for example the classical music argument:

I know he’s only kiddin, cos we been mates for years. But it don’t make it no fuckin easier sittin here in his comfortable three bedroomed semi, drinkin tea out of a china cup and listenin to him bangin on about fuckin Wagner, whilst at the same time he’s beratin the fuckin genius of Shostakovich…

‘Nietzsche was right,’ I says, quiet, sort of under me breath.

Micky’s eyes start to bulge. He puts his tea down.

‘What did you say?’ he says, leanin forward, squeezing his eyebrows together.

The pair then proceed to fight over Nietzsche’s interpretation of Wagner - this incredibly rough, violent pair arguing over classical music and philosophy having discussed debt collection and murder.

And back to the beginning. This is a superbly written novella. I can’t find a fault anywhere with it. One of the best stories I’ve read. Ever.

Ever.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Adult language, some scenes of violence.

Added for Reprise Review: One Day in the Life of Jason Dean by Ian Ayris was a nominee in the Crime Fiction category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran March 11, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Review: Sucker Punch by Jim Carroll



Genre: Military Thriller

Description:

“Johnny Mack wanted to be an airline pilot who flew all over the world, made great money and met lots of girls. At 18 that seemed like a fair trade for a few years in the Army.

Johnny found out too late that in 1971 the Army only needed helicopter pilots. And they only needed them in Vietnam.

After an unfortunate incident involving a General’s daughter, Johnny ‘volunteers’ to go undercover on a Medevac crew suspected of selling Army medicines to the enemy.

Johnny’s control officer’s incompetence is deadlier than any enemy. Johnny’s crew are psychopathic pirates.

Then there is the regular job. Coming into hot landing zones. Loading the dead and wounded. Ignoring the screaming and thrashing about in the back. Holding the helicopter steady as bullets rip through the bird. Cleaning out the blood and gore as part of the regular post flight.

There is no one to trust. Death is coming from every direction.

As life spirals out of his control, Johnny realizes that getting killed may be the least of his problems. His sanity, his soul and everything that he believes himself to be, are in as much danger as his life.”

Author:

This is Jim Carroll’s first novel and was inspired by the year he spent in Vietnam “working and sleeping 100 yards from a Medevac Hospital landing pad.”

Appraisal:

A solid novel that while a military thriller, also has elements of mystery and romance thrown into the mix. In fact, it felt almost like a memoir at times, in that the author made the things the protagonist was experiencing and feeling seem all too real, especially as the book was starting out which did a good job of drawing me in. It also did a good job at getting me thinking about the cost of war. Intense with a few characters that I really cared about and wanted to see survive relatively unscathed.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language and minor adult content.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on an advance reader copy. I can’t judge the final product.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words