Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Reprise Review: The Harbinger (13th Floor) by Christine Rains

 


Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

Description:

“Meira Harper loves both her jobs: talking about beautiful shoes and fetching souls for Zeus. But the Thunder God threatens the harpy's loyalty to her job when she receives the call to bring the soul of gorgeous Sam Wright. Meira pleads with her boss to let him live. Zeus agrees, but Sam must fight for his life. If Sam can win three challenges, he can keep his soul.

The gods never play fairly, though, so Meira needs to find ways to help Sam with the challenges. She cannot outwardly cross her master, but she refuses to let the man she loves lose his soul. They haven't even had a chance to start a life together.

Sam's soul is on the line. Meira's will be too if she's caught, but that's a risk she's willing to take.”

Author:

Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom who lives in southern Indiana with her husband and son. Ms. Rains is a member of S.C.I.F.I. and Untethered Realms. You can find out more about Ms. Rains on her blog, or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Ms. Rains has done it again. It took me a little longer to actually love this novella, but this author’s intelligent writing style and contemporary view of the Gods won me over. The journey that these two characters take is unique and drew me in. The inner turmoil that Meira felt was real and I was as concerned for Meira’s soul as I was Sam’s. The character development was outstanding; I even ended up liking Hera at the end. The challenges Sam was given seemed insurmountable, I think the author proved, for man, that anything is possible with the right woman/harpy by his side. The last challenge had me reeling, but the author’s brilliant mind was able to make it work. Sam Wright was a true hero. The action, drama, and emotion in this novella are worth five stars.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The Harbinger is the fourth novella in Ms. Rains’ The 13th Floor series.

Added for Reprise Review: The Harbinger (13th Floor) by Christine Rains was a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran April 19, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no editing or formatting issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Monday, January 18, 2021

Review: The Adventures of Dagobert Trostler by Balduin Groller

 


Genre: Mystery/Historical

Description:

“Dagobert Trostler is the Sherlock Holmes of Vienna . . . with a twist. Like Holmes, he's the most famous private investigator in Vienna. Unlike Holmes, he's a bit of a party animal. While he loves a good mystery, he also loves good food, good company and a good time. He's a bon-vivant and right at home in the brilliant social scene of Vienna in the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

These stories, written by Balduin Groller and published in Vienna between 1889 and 1910, are a glimpse into the sparkling, forgotten world of turn-of-the-century Vienna. Hugely popular in the German-speaking world, they are now available in English for the first time exclusively from Kazabo Publishing. If you love Sherlock Holmes, you need to read these stories!”

Author:

“Balduin Groller, born Adalbert Goldscheider in what is now Arad, Romania, in 1848, was one of pre-war Vienna's most successful and popular journalists. Familiar with Viennese high society, he was also the founder of what became the Austrian Olympic Committee.”

Appraisal:

When I decided to give this book a read, I was looking for a change of pace, and I definitely got it. The comparison of Dagobert Trostler to Sherlock Holmes intrigued me, not only the similarities, but the differences. It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Sherlock Holmes, but based on my vague memories of doing so, I think the comparison holds up. The short discussion in the foreword about the differences between the society Trostler’s story is set in compared to that of Holmes was interesting and planted the seeds in the back of my mind so that I took notice when those differences showed in Trostler’s actions. The original publication of these stories was around the same time as Holmes was also being published. (Both sets of stories were contemporary, at the time of first publication.) Translating and publishing this version in English at that time would seem to have been a good idea. However, whoever wrote the foreword for this volume feels that these differences in society were what kept that from happening at the time. For me, those differences were a big part of my enjoyment and what I thought was unique about this book.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words

Friday, January 15, 2021

Reprise Review: Different by Frank Mundo

 


Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Coming of Age/Humor/Drama

Description:

“One morning 12-year-old Gregory Gourde wakes up in his bed with an impossible new feature: his head has become a watermelon. We follow Gregory down a rabbit hole of sorts to a new world and an audacious exploration of what it really means to be different in this dark yet humorous nod to Kafka's Metamorphosis and Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.”

Author:

“Frank Mundo is a full-time writer in Los Angeles. He has a BA in English from UCLA, where he also completed the Creative Writing Program. His stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in dozens of journals, magazines and anthologies in print and online... Mundo is the author of the award-winning novel in verse, The Brubury Tales (foreword by bestselling author and critic Carolyn See), a modern version of The Canterbury Tales, set in Los Angeles; and Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy and Other Stories, an interconnected collection of his very best short stories published over the last 15 years.”

Appraisal:

Gregory Gourde certainly does take a trip down the rabbit hole in this dark fantasy; I felt like he was skating on the edge of madness for most of this story. Surely this is not what it is like for most boys going through puberty. But the author’s prose had me convinced that it had been for him. Frank Mundo does not just throw words at the page in hopes that they stick. There is much thought put into the words he chooses and this story will leave you thinking about it long after you have finished the story. This is the sign of a true wordsmith.

The story is told through Gregory's eyes with an omniscient narrator who pops in occasionally to move the story along or fill in past events of Gregory's life or other characters that played an important role. This is masterfully handled by the author and gave me a chance to let things soak in. Gregory is desperately seeking sanity and consistency despite his dysfunctional family. He is a smart kid and until he embraces and accepts himself for who he really is things go awry. Especially when he is told he does not belong in this alternate reality.

This was not an easy read for me, I tend to get too involved with the characters in the stories I read. So when things do not go well for the characters I have invested in I feel their pain. That is why I try to stick with fantasy. Gregory's problems are realistic, the manifestation of his problems are fantasy but certainly real in his mind.

The characters are beautifully written and darkly wonderful in their own way. The plot moves at a nice pace throughout the book. This is a fantastic journey of self-discovery, and I am glad I survived the trip as well as Gregory.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Adult language and content. Not for children.

The artwork included in this story is excellent, it adds a dimension not usually found in books. I read this on my Paperwhite and the images came across beautifully.

Added for Reprise Review: Different by Frank Mundo was a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran December 31, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant errors.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Review: Angel in the Details by Elizabeth Corrigan

 


Genre: Fantasy

Description:

Michael is supposed to be the Leader of the Host of Heaven’s angels, but lately he spends his days ignoring his responsibility and going on the offensive against demons. His extracurricular damnations couldn’t avoid the gaze of Hell forever, though, and before long, he finds himself captured by the demon Asphodel.

As Asphodel tortures a despairing Michael, Heaven’s second-in-command, Gabriel, sends former demon Bedlam to look for the missing archangel. Bedlam wants nothing to do with a Heavenly mission, especially one that involves helping Michael, so he decides the best way to never get another order is to disobey this one. Instead, he drags his friend Khet on a road trip that may change their relationship forever.

While Bedlam shirks his duty, Asphodel spins a web around Michael. Can the already-broken archangel discern truth from fiction in time to escape? And if not, will he be able to face the real motivation for his kidnapping when it finally comes to light?

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. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters. She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.”

To learn more check out Ms. Corrigan’s website or follow her onFacebook.

Appraisal:

Archangel Michael, who is Leader of the Host of Heaven’s angels, is in the middle of having a mental breakdown. While ignoring his responsibilities for the last three months he has taken up demon killing 24-7 to relieve the emotional stress whirling around in his head. Jophiel, the angel of service, tries to talk sense into Michael to get him back at his duties in Heaven, to no avail. Humans and demons alike were starting to take notice of Michael. One demon in particular, Asphodel, an incubus who proclaimed himself “The King of Lies.” He manages to kidnap Michael and chain him in a secret cavern network of several caves that negate angels’ powers.

When Gabriel cannot locate Michael he enlists Bedlam to find him, while he looks for someone to introduce him to the field angels. These are the angels who answer people’s thoughts and prayers on earth. Siren, the angel of honesty, offers to introduce Gabriel herself. For the price of a job, to be Gabriel’s second in command. She doesn’t feel like she has a purpose and wants to belong somewhere.

While Michael is being mercilessly tortured by Asphodel and his web of lies. Michael is forced to endure Asphodel’s pleasure palace (snort). However, in-between sessions, Michael closely reviews his emotional stress points from the past to come away with a more truth based assessment.

Bedlam decides to take Khet/Cassia on a long road trip to avoid looking for Michael. Of course chaos/comedy ensues. The chapters are devoted to each angel so we get the story told from their point-of-view. Since everything is happening in different locations at the same time. I have decided I really like Siren, and she took on a large assignment enlightening Gabriel. It’s going to be interesting to see how this new arrangement works out. I do feel like the ending was a little rushed. I wanted more between Michael and Cain/Cassia at the end.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Angel in the Details is book 4 in Ms. Corrigan’s, Earthbound Angels Series. This series is best read in order, starting with book 1, The Oracle of Philadelphia.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing issues, nothing that threw me out of the story.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Monday, January 11, 2021

Review: No Monkeys in the Library by Paige Mulder

 


Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Description:

“A lovable monkey and his misadventures at the library.”

Author:

Born in Michigan and the big sister to two younger brothers, Paige Mulder is still in her teens. This is her first book, but there is a follow up (No Monkeys in the Park) that should be out by the time this review is published. For more, check out her website.

Appraisal:

For my first time reading this book I had my granddaughter (we’ll call her LBG or “little blonde girl”) who is in second grade read it to me. I could see the book drew her in quickly. She enjoyed reading it and the librarian (the other main character in the book in addition to the Monkey) gave her plenty of chances to put a lot of drama into her words. In fact, it would be hard to read the book out loud without doing so. That makes this a good choice for young readers to read to a parent or a younger sibling.

When we finished I asked LBG for her impressions. She immediately said that she liked it. When I quizzed, asking what her favorite part of it was the answer was “My favorite part was all of it.” I guess she liked it a lot. She also gave me her thoughts on the Monkey (he was being naughty), suggested that the librarian was a bit mean, but “she said sorry” due to what happened at the end. But I don’t want to give away the ending. You’ll have to read it yourself if you’re curious about that.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 28 pages

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Reprise Review: Bad Book by K.S. Brooks, Stephen Hise, JD Mader

 


Genre: Satire/Parody

Description:

“The name’s Case. No first name. He is a man among men and therefore only one name is sufficient. Women want to smack him – men want to smack him, too, just harder. Join Case on his epic travels through multiple literary genres as he ruins horror, space-adventure, noir detective, spy-thriller, westerns, classics of literature, pop culture icons and more with his own unique panache.”

Authors:

Three people who write a bunch. Want more?

K.S. Brooks has written everything from thrillers to children’s books (I count eleven, not including those where she was a coauthor or contributing author, which adds another handful – the number of fingers on Honey Boo Boo’s hand if you count this book). Ms. Brooks is also the administrator of the website Indies Unlimited.

Stephen Hise is the author of the suspense novel Upgrade and has contributed to several others including Creepier by the Dozen, a short story anthology written by Hise, his son, and his daughter. He’s also the founder of the Indies Unlimited website.

JD Mader has two novels to his credit, a short story collection, and a collection of essays to scare any dad-to-be, You Hate Me Because I’m Pregnant (a survival guide for expectant dads). He’s also contributed to and co-written several others.

For more, visit the individual websites for Brooks, Hise, and Mader.

Appraisal:

Humor may be dependent on the reader, but if you can’t laugh at this book, you must have had a funny-bone-ectomy as a child. The laughs started with a disclaimer that begins …

Bad Book meets or exceeds the recommended daily allowance of vowels and consonants, and is safe and effective when used as directed. Use of Bad Book in any manner inconsistent with its intended purpose nullifies its warranty, which is neither expressed nor implied.

… and finishes with, “If you experience an erection that lasts more than four hours, congratulations.” It only gets better from there. As the hero (villain, idiot, or at least protagonist) Chase bounces from genre to genre the authors poke fun at every one with references to the wild (or is it mild) old west and even the books J.K. Rowling wrote before The Casual Vacancy.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and tottered around to see some geezer dressed in a long gown and a pointy hat like that old dude in that book about that weird little kid that goes off to some magical school to find a ring. What’s the name of that thing again – “Hobbits Take Manhattan,” or something like that.

How could you go wrong for less than a dollar to get your own copy of the Kindle Edition. (Hurry, they may try to cash in on the critical acclaim and bump the price up to three digits. Even split three ways, they’ll be hundredaires in no time.)

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Bad Book by K.S. Brooks, Stephen Hise, JD Mader was a nominee in the Humor category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran June 25, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Review: Life’s Not Over Yet by Vidisha Chandna Dua

 

Genre: Romance/Middle Eastern culture/Women’s Lit/Novella

Description:

“Trisha moves to Chail, a beautiful hill station to escape from her past on the advice of her friend. She realises soon enough that her friend has not told her everything.

In time Dev and her, become good friends. Even though they both start caring for each other, she is not able to forget her past or share her past with him.

Trisha must decide what is more important, her past or her future. Will she give up on her dreams and resign herself to her fate or take one day at a time and start rebuilding her life again.”

Author:

“Ever since she can remember Vidisha has been a daydreamer. She loves to travel, try different cuisines, dance, listen to music and most of all she loves to read. She is also a Chartered Accountant who has worked in the Finance industry for over 11 years.

Vidisha took a break from work when her daughter was born. Her life changed when she took her daughter to her first dance class. She had an hour to spare so she started writing a story and then there was no looking back. Her first Romance Novella Life's Not Over Yet is the first in a series of books about life. With life experiences from the Middle East, Scandinavia, Australia and India, Vidisha weaves an emotional and romantic journey for her characters. She has always believed that if you really want something, the universe will come together and open doors that you never thought existed, all you have to do is listen and look carefully around you.”

Appraisal:

Trisha is going through a mid-life crisis. Her friend sets her up with a one year lease in Chail where she has a job waiting for her. Trisha is under the impression her friend has lined her up with an apartment of her own. However, she leased a room in her friend’s brother’s house. Dev is a doctor who is going through his own stuff and doesn’t remember signing the lease because he was too drunk to remember. Both characters are strong willed but Trisha has the upper hand because she has a signed lease for one year.

Dev is an arrogant jerk for the first six months of the lease. Trisha and he have an agreement to stay out of each other’s way which seems to be working out for both of them. Anyway, after six months Dev finally realizes he has been a jerk and Trisha can now stay for the whole year’s lease. Honestly, she wasn’t even looking for another place to live.

I had a really hard time trying to like both of these characters. Dev for being an arrogant jerk and then after having dug his heels in for six months decides that is all water under the bridge so let’s be friends now. Trisha was a control freak with everyone except Dev. Their whole situation drove me nuts. I believe this is more of a personal dislike, so other readers may have a completely different experience with Life’s Not Over Yet.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Clean & Wholesome Romance.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing errors.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Review: Animal by Munish K. Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido

 


Genre: Crime Thriller

Description:

“Two grisly murders are committed at a meatpacking plant by a person wearing a cow mask…not long after the CEO of a water park is brutally killed by someone wearing an orca mask.

Interpol Agent An Chang believes these are the latest acts of a ruthless serial killer he has been chasing for more than twenty years…a killer who targets those who harm innocent animals.

Elephant poachers in Chad, Russian big-game hunters of endangered species, dog fighters in Atlanta, European food execs who gorge ducks to make paté, gorilla hunters in the Congo, ivory merchants in China.

Those who torture animals are not safe…

Working with two California detectives, Chang races to unmask the killer, as his spree ramps up. But the killer’s motives and history are far deeper than anyone realizes, and the truth of his rampage leads on a wild chase from the streets of Shanghai around the globe…

Animal is a relentless thriller by renowned surgeon and humanitarian Dr. Munish K. Batra, in collaboration with international best-selling author Keith R.A. DeCandido. This thought-provoking, pulse-pounding novel will engross and enthrall. Do the most noble of intentions justify the most horrific acts?”

Author:

“Dr. Batra is currently collaborating with Keith R.A. DeCandido on other fiction projects, and is also working on a nonfiction book called Medical Madness. He also enjoys Brazilian jiu-jitsu, yoga, and meditation. His wife Pooja and their three young children, Ayaan, Kairav, and Kiara, offer him constant encouragement and support.

Keith R.A. DeCandido is the award-winning, best-selling author of more than fifty novels, almost a hundred short stories, a smattering of comic books, and a ton of nonfiction.”

Appraisal:

“Do the most noble of intentions justify the most horrific acts?” That question is the big one that is at the root of this book. The story, a crime thriller with a couple California police detectives and an Interpol agent looking for a killer, is a good detective story, but the question of whodunit is pretty much answered early in the book However, it leaves the detectives with plenty of other questions. Why? Who’s next? How do we find our suspect and stop the murders?

Then we have that big question quoted above. When is the killing of animals okay and when isn’t it? Is the killing of humans ever justified to stop the killing of nonhumans? Is the killing of a cow to provide me with my burger more forgivable than the killing of an endangered and rare gorilla or elephant for reasons of sport or profit? Is the torture through force feeding of a duck before slaughtering it to get foie gras for human consumption worse than just killing a cow to get those steaks? What if the animal being killed for food is something we might not picture as food, but may be considered food in other countries, like a dog for example? I don’t have the answers, but reading and thinking about this story sure got the questions roiling around my brain.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Friday, January 1, 2021

Review: Gender Politics by Amanda Botfeld

 


Genre: Political Fiction/Short Story

Description:

“Societal commentary just got interesting.

Read this funny, racy, exaggerated take on a man running for office -- and the woman chosen to help him.

Peppered with satire of the elite and commentary on class warfare, this quirky political humor story explores power struggles between the sexes.

Perfect if you want to chuckle and think. This tale is one helluva ride -- a sexy little snicker.”

Author:

I can’t tell you much about Amanda Botfeld. If you want to subscribe and receive her emailed newsletters, visit her website. But that’s literally the only thing there. She may or may not be the same author as another one using the same name. I could point to things that would have me believe either way. Your guess is as good as mine. I guess for the moment we’ll have to call her the mystery woman.

Appraisal:

I think it would be fair to say that this short story got me wondering. Not about the characters and what I thought about the behavior I saw from them. I had no doubt about how I felt about that. But one of the characters, Priscilla, throws out some thoughts at the end of the story, thinking she has two choices at that point. I thought the choice to make was obvious, but wasn’t sure that I agreed with the way she presented the tradeoff between the choices. The author’s way of presenting them are what triggered that wondering. Maybe it will do the same for you. Either way, I’m sure you’ll agree that Priscilla’s choice is the right one.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A small amount of adult language (it is a short story, so how much could there be) and a touch of sexual content.

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 3-4,000 words