Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rich Life, Skinny Wallet / Erin Frey

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-Fiction/Self Help

Approximate word count: 10-11,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


An elementary school teacher who married a Marine, Erin Frey’s books are aimed at communicating things she learned the hard way to make it easier for others. Her dream is to one day write a romance novel.


“Who says you can't have a fulfilling lifestyle without disposable income? That's a myth! The secret to living well on very little is a combination of managing what you have wisely, cutting back in some places, and learning how to earn a few extra dollars or collecting rewards for things you already do. You'll learn about free or inexpensive entertainment, the power of brand disloyalty, and a host of other things that are so obvious, you won't believe you weren't doing them before.

This self-help collection of tricks and tips is separated into three categories: Easy Hacks (incredibly simple ways to save), It's a Chore (practices requiring moderate effort), and Superman of Savings (only for the motivated). You'll find ideas to help you start saving, earning, and stretching your dollars further than you ever thought possible!”


As the author explains in the introduction, this book came about when she and her husband got out of the military and they moved for him to attend college on the GI bill, shrinking their family income from two wage earners to zero. Although not as extensive as some books I’ve read on the subject, I also didn’t feel that Frey’s money saving suggestions were too far out there, which was the case with a few books with the same aim. I especially liked the way she broke the ideas into three categories based on the effort to implement them and a couple of the “easy hacks” (suggestions that take minimal effort) were new ideas for me, which was a positive.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Eagle's Blood / Keith Nixon

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Historical Fiction

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Keith Nixon is the author of The Fix and The Konstantin Novellas series, both crime fiction, with a sequel to The Fix slated for release soon. He’s also the author of The Eagle’s Shadow, which is historical fiction and the first in the series which this book continues. In addition to writing and his day job, Keith reviews for Crime Fiction Lover as well as being one of Books and Pals’ most prolific reviewers.


“One man stands against the might of the Roman Empire. His name is Caradoc.

The British army is shattered, defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by subterfuge and betrayal. Caradoc flees the battlefield, the crown heavy on his head and his heart set on retribution. He has to make hard decisions and tough compromises, but with the sovereignty of Britain at stake, personal pride sometimes has to take second place.

Emperor Claudius is determined to make as much political mileage as possible out of the Roman victory in an attempt to consolidate his own position. That does not sit well with the Roman military, who have their own objectives and who will do whatever it takes to achieve them.

As the Romans consolidate their gains and begin to push west, Caradoc finds he has few friends left. So he must turn to the Durotriges, a wild, hill fort dwelling tribe. But the Durotriges are riven by strife and petty squabbles.

Aulus Plautius, commander of the Roman army, brings his siege weapons to bear, can Caradoc resist the onslaught?”


The Eagle’s Blood continues the story of the various tribes that occupied what is now Britain in their resistance against the invasion of the Roman army during the first century AD. Beyond the obvious (lots of battles and military strategy), there is plenty of intrigue and human interest going on as well.

When I read historical stories I’m always comparing and contrasting to the modern world. One thing that struck me was how much this invasion was influenced by politics and technology, both still major factors in the modern world. At the time Britain was a hodgepodge of different tribes and if they are to have any hope to stop the Romans, they have to come together. The politics of combining the forces of tribes that have historically clashed and deciding who will lead these armies was a big part of the story. Tribal leaders needed to decide whether resistance was even worthwhile. If they’re going to lose, maybe throwing in with the Romans is the better decision. The technology possessed by the Romans — catapults and such — left the British with their more primitive weapons at a severe disadvantage with their only hope being to outnumber the Romans. A good story with special appeal for those interested in the historical aspects.


This is the second of a series and continues the story that began with The Eagle’s Shadow. Although ideally the reader would read the first book prior to this one, I believe reading this as a standalone would work.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Skyfall / Christian Edwards

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian/Short Story

Approximate word count: 4-5,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


A senior at the University of Alabama, this is Christian Edwards’ first published work. On the horizon are her debut novel, The Mafia Diaries, and Freefall, a sequel to Skyfall.


“An uprise and a war. That's all it took for the government to strip society of their freedom. An uprise and a war was all it took to give the government access to everyone's dreams and thoughts. It took an uprise and a war to change Katherine Sullivan's life forever.

A futuristic dystopia society is split into two divisions based on income status.

Rich girl Katherine has her life turned upside down when she's kidnapped by a handsome poor boy who claims to work for someone very close to her and ordered to bring her to Skyfall to complete Operation Zero.”


A short story that sets up a unique dystopian world, introduces us to some interesting characters, and takes us through a few conflicts. The resolution of the main conflict in this story leaves the reader hanging a bit, as it sets up what appears to be the start of the planned sequel. All in all a fun little read.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Wrong Magic / Ken La Salle

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Relationships

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


“Author and Playwright, Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue collar roots, which have given him a progressive and environmentalist view. As a result, you'll find many of his stories touching those areas both geographically and philosophically. His passion is intense humor, meaningful drama, and finding answers to the questions that define our lives. You can find out more about Ken on his website.”


“Good relationships take a certain kind of magic to succeed, and what Alex Petroya seems to have is the wrong magic.

After his wife Stephanie leaves, Alex has one place left to go: the pink house his parents left to him in Cambria, California. After moving in, he discovers a box filled with unfinished stories Stephanie had written during their marriage.

Could finishing them win her back? Alex decides to try but finds writing is harder than it looks. With help from his brother-in-law, Conner, he learns a simple incantation to increase focus. As Alex writes the stories, they come true, creating strange, unnatural events. Then he gets another idea: he will manipulate the stories further to make Stephanie return to him.

With the incantation and the stories, Alex seems to have tapped into a magical combination. But in the end, he finds there is no magic stronger than that of the human heart.”


Author Ken La Salle manages to write the most pathetic, self-absorbed, uninteresting, dull character and manages to keep him there throughout most of the story. Alex Petrova maintains his lack of growth by repeating the same mistakes over and over in an endless circle. His lack of foresight is untenable and disastrous.

The only saving grace he has available is his brother-in-law, Conner, and his childhood neighbors, Karl and Betty Ferguson. However he refuses to take any of their advice and proceeds with his own plan of action. Conner was a bit two-dimensional and Karl and Betty were stereotypical neighbors.

The way Alex’s stories affected his surroundings was outlandish, but entertaining. I kept feeling like surely Alex will see the light and change but he would fall back into the same role again repeatedly. Why he continued with the stories is beyond me. Except the last one when he decides to write his and Stephanie living happily ever after and that one was not touched upon nearly enough to satisfy me. Was all the magic of the prior stories undone? Did the neighborhood survive intact? I needed more and was left wanting.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found a small number of missing or wrong words.

Rating: *** Three stars

Friday, March 27, 2015


Just over a day left to vote for your picks in this year's BigAl's Books and Pals Readers' Choice Awards.

Click HERE to vote and get a chance to win some great prizes.

Scan the links in the right hand column under the heading "Blog Archive" for the spotlight posts with descriptions of each of the nominees and links to our review or reviews of each.

Last, spread the word to all your reader friends.

Voting ends at Midnight Mountain Time, tomorrow, March 28th.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Adaline / Denise Kawaii

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Sci-fi/YA

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Denise Kawaii resides with her husband and son in Portland, Oregon. In addition to writing books, Denise manages a paintball shop and gets out on the field to play as often as possible. She has three titles currently on the market. Age/Sex/Location: Love is Just a Click Away is a contemporary romance published by Brighton Publishing. A Giraffe in the Room is a novellette of Medical Fiction and Adaline is Kawaii's top selling YA Science Fiction.

Denise is currently writing Adaline 2.0 (sequel to Adaline), and a thriller titled Serial which will be released under the name D.K. Greene. Both titles are expected for release in late 2015..

Adaline is Huxley’s Brave New World on steroids. The novel takes place inside a huge building that is managed by machines in service of “The Community.” All the human inhabitants (at least all that we meet) are male and cloned from the same genetic material so they look more or less identical. The story focuses on eight-year-old-boy #62 (the populace uses numbers not names). Through his eyes we learn how Adaline trains its citizens.


One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading indie works from Big Al’s long list is that occasionally I stumble across a story that is quite different from anything I’ve experienced before. Adaline falls firmly into that category.

#62, it turns out, is physically similar, but internally different from most of his “brothers” in that he dreams and has an unfettered imagination. This puts him at odds with those who control The Community, amplifies his stress levels because he has to come to terms with being not-the-same (which makes him a “bad boy”), but also gives him scope to mentally escape the tightly restricted world of Adaline.

Because it’s such a linear story, there’s not much by way of detail that I can reveal without providing spoilers.

I thought it a fascinating concept, and I enjoyed the novel. I did find it a little slow and repetitive in parts, but I also appreciate that the author was walking a fine line because the world of Adaline is repetitive—that is the very nature of machines.

Format/Typo Issues:

Too few to mention.

Rating: **** Four stars

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Readers' Choice Spotlight - Fantasy

Remember to vote for your pick in each category and to enter the giveaway on this page.

Raising Chaos
Elizabeth Corrigan

When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge. 

The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful—overindulging in Sri Lankan delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet. But when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there—Bedlam’s best friend, Khet—he can’t sit idly by. 

Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer’s request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ’s side at His crucifixion. Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location. Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place. 

His quest is made nearly impossible by the interference of a persnickety archivist, Keziel—his angelic ex—and a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands. But to Bedlam, “wrong” is just an arbitrary word, and there’s no way he’s letting Khet die without a fight.

Scorched Earth
Lynne Cantwell

Harvest’s in… 

Sue faces the biggest challenge of her career: she has three weeks to raise millions of dollars for research into a supergrain that promises to end world hunger. But ayalendo has some distressing -- even dangerous -- qualities. And Lucifer means to exploit them to control the world’s food supply and become a god at last. 

When Tess learns the identity of the shady corporation pushing ayalendo’s development, she realizes her own livelihood may be in jeopardy. She and Darrell embark on a cross-country journey to her parents’ farm to gather information for a congressional committee investigating the ayalendo project.

The gods are bringing in some big guns to help. But it will be up to Sue, Tess, and Darrell to defeat Lucifer, once and for all.

Stormhawk's Warning
Susan Stuckey

The cruel and ruthless Chorkan, servants of the Dark God, have one obstacle in their path to conquest: a young noble in the Kingdom of Kier, Prince Kaden. Pursued by enemies and friends alike, while under a death sentence for a crime he didn't commit, Kaden seeks sanctuary with his old weapons master. He must find a missing princess, save his family, prevent a war and protect his kingdom, all while avoiding the executioner’s block.

The Five Faces
Frank Tuttle

It starts as a typical day in the park, with Markhat tracking a bully the law won’t touch, and promising a little girl he’ll find her missing dog, name of Cornbread.

But as the sun sets over Rannit, a new menace creeps out with the dark. There’s a killer on the loose, and Markhat the finder suspects magic behind the murders. Each victim receives a grisly drawing depicting the place, time, and manner of death. Not a single victim has escaped the brutal fate drawn for them—and now Markhat’s own death-drawing has arrived.

The mighty Dark Houses are also falling, one by one, as terror grips Rannit’s streets. Even sorcerers are dying, their magic failing, their blood spilled as easily as that of any other.

With time and hope running out, Markhat races to outwit a creature that can see outside Time itself. Before the picture of his own death becomes stained with real blood.

Warning: The dance moves described herein are not intended for novice trolley operators, and the Publisher assumes no responsibility for any loss of ornamental waterfowl, carrot-enhanced undergarments, or wheeled bathing contrivances. The preceding sentence should be read in the voice of Morgan Freeman and to the accompaniment of a competent string ensemble.

The Road to Rebirth
Dean F Wilson


The Beast Agon is not yet loose, but another evil has fallen on the world. Ifferon and his companions find themselves in the unenviable situation of witnessing, and partaking in, the death of another god—this time Corrias, the ruler of the Overworld. 

In this lifeless state, Corrias suffers a fate worse than the bonds of the Beast. Yet hope is kindled when the company find a way, however difficult, to restore the god back to life. 

The road to rebirth has many pitfalls, and there are some who consider such meddling with the afterlife a grave risk. The prize might be life anew—but the price might also be a second death.

Enter the world of Iraldas. Walk the Road to Rebirth.

Michael Meyerhofer

In a land haunted by the legacy of dead dragons, Rowen Locke has been many things: orphan, gravedigger, mercenary. All he ever wanted was to become a Knight of Crane and wield a kingsteel sword against the kind of grown horrors his childhood knows all too well. But that dream crumbled--replaced by a new nightmare. War is overrunning the realms, an unprecedented duel of desire and revenge, steel and sorcery. And for one disgraced man who would be a knight, in a world where no one is blameless, the time has come to decide which side he's on.

Guest Post from Angela V. Cook, author of Into a Million Pieces

The Top Ten Things to Do When You Get a Bad Review

We’ve all heard horror stories of reviewers being attacked/stalked/bullied online after giving a less-than-stellar review to an author, and I find it absolutely ridiculous. Bad reviews happen to everyone; they’re par for the course. The only way to guarantee never getting a bad review, is to never publish anything. No one likes getting them, and yes they do sting, but there are other ways to handle a bad review besides acting out in anger. Below are some suggestions.

10) Pay a visit to your dear friend Hershey. Chocolate makes everything better.

9)   Look up a popular book on Goodreads that sold millions, and check out all the bad reviews it got. Yes, even Stephen King gets bad reviews (I wonder if he eats chocolate when he does?).

8)  Downton Abbey marathon. Nuff said.

7)  Eat a bowl of ice cream, followed by a bag of Doritos (because you need something salty), and then raid the fridge for that almost-empty bag of chocolate chips (because you need something sweet). Once you’ve downed said chocolate chips—chased with flat Coke from a week-old two liter—complain about having eaten too much, and then pass out on the couch for the night.

6)  Call up your mom “just to chat,” but then start to sob uncontrollably when she asks you, “How’s the book stuff goin’?”

5)  Contact all your friends and family who said they enjoyed your book, and interrogate them to find out if they were lying. Only be satisfied upon the sixth time of them saying, “Yes, I really, really liked it!”

4)  Ugly cry on the phone while trying to—incoherently—explain to one of your writing pals why you’re not fit to write infomercials, let alone novels.

3)  Snuggle with your dog and whisper in her ear, “You understand, don’t ya girl?” Then watch as she proceeds to lick her butt.

2)  Play Candy Land with a child, and within five minutes, I guarantee you’ll forget all about the bad review. Sure, you might want to drink a gallon of antifreeze to put an end to your misery, but at least you won’t be thinking about the review.

1)  Hershey misses you. Pay him another visit.

Get your copy of Angela's novel, Into a Million Pieces, from Amazon US (paper or ebook), Amazon UK (paper or ebook), or Barnes & Noble.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Readers' Choice Spotlight - Thriller

Remember to vote for your pick in each category and to enter the giveaway on this page.

A One Way Ticket to Dead
D.V. Berkom

Digging up the past can be deadly... 

After years of running from her ex—a vicious Mexican drug lord—and his subsequent death, Kate Jones is ready to bury the past and try to piece together a new normal. But first there’s a loose end to tie and it involves digging up old ghosts that are best left alone. 

Unaware her actions have attracted the notice of a powerful enemy Kate is plunged into a deadly fight for survival, as both her life and the lives of the children of a man she once loved hang in the balance. And, with the possibility of an informant inside the DEA, she doesn’t know who she can trust. 

From the emerald green shores of Seattle to the lush Yucatan jungle and unforgiving Sonoran desert, Kate Jones must once again face her past...and hope she survives.

Binds that Tie
Kate Moretti

Love ties. Murder binds. 

Maggie never felt as though she belonged until Chris Stevens showed her what true happiness meant. Ten years into their marriage, miscarriages and infidelities have scarred them both. Despite their perfect-couple image, Maggie can’t look at Chris with anything but resentment. When a charismatic stranger offers the opportunity for a little harmless flirtation, she jumps into the game. 

But charm soon turns to malice, and a deadly split-second decision forces Maggie and Chris onto a dangerous path fraught with secrets, lies, and guilt. With no one else to turn to—no one she dares trust—Maggie will ultimately learn just how binding marital ties can be.

Dark Witness
Rebecca Forster

As the edge of winter slices through Washington D.C., Josie Bates testifies before Congress about the Albanian blood feud that sent Hannah Sheraton and Billy Zuni fleeing for their lives while Archer reluctantly abandons a trail that has gone cold in his search for the teenagers.
Determined to stay one step ahead of the authorities who want Billy back and a blood feud that will only be satisfied when he is dead, Hannah and Billy head north. There they will hunker down in the darkest corner of earth they can find and wait for the danger to pass.Though the journey is treacherous, they finally find themselves isolated, safe, and as far from Hermosa Beach as they can get. But their relief is short lived. When the perpetual winter dark turns to inky black, they realize they have taken refuge in hell. Now the fight in front of Hannah and Billy is not only for their lives, but their very souls. 

Home Owner with a Gun
Samuel Hawley

What would you do to protect your family...if you had a gun?

It’s the middle of the night. You’re awakened by a noise. Someone's in your house. What do you do? 

When it happens at 148 Maple Drive, homeowner Jeff Shaw gets his gun and goes downstairs to investigate while his wife calls 9-1-1. It’s their home, after all. Jeff has to protect it. He finds two men in the kitchen and shoots them both. Dead. 

The incident puts great strain on Jeff and his family. He wants to believe they just need to get on with their lives and everything will return to normal. But it’s not that easy. The dead intruders belonged to a gang, ANG, “Ain’t No Game,” that now wants revenge. And one of the gang, an ex-con who goes by the name I-Man, knows more about the break-in than he’s letting on. 

It starts with a threatening phone call. Then it gets worse. The police, unable to protect the Shaws, suggest they move away for a while. But Jeff won't be intimidated from his own house. Homeowner With a Gun takes the reader on a suspense-filled thrill ride as this everyman fights to save himself and his family, while something a detective said plays in the back of his mind: Maybe the intruders broke into the wrong house. Happens all the time. You wouldn’t believe how often... 

Sean Black

Exhausted by years of combat, and haunted by the ghosts of his past, nothing is going to stop special forces veteran Byron Tibor returning home to the woman he loves. But is Byron who he appears to be, and why is the American government determined to stop him? 

From the blood-soaked mountains of the Hindu Kush to the glittering lights of Manhattan, via the dark underbelly of the Las Vegas Strip, POST is the story of one man's struggle to retain his humanity – before it's too late.

Shadowline Drift
Alexes Razevich

An Amazonian tribe that may or may not exist; a dangerous teenage sorceress - and madness - conspire to stop Jake Kendricks from revealing the truth about a mysterious substance that will end world hunger.

Reality and illusion collide in this fast-paced thriller in the vein of Lost and Inception.

Readers' Choice Spotlight - Young Adult

Remember to vote for your pick in each category and to enter the giveaway on this page.

All the Butterflies in the World
Rodney Jones

With her senior year looming, Tess McKinnon has two goals: hanging out with her best friend, Liz, and avoiding her judgmental, alcoholic mother. Then yummy John Bartley arrives—to tell Mrs. McKinnon that her daughter is dead. Distinctly still alive, Tess is baffled by John’s tales of 1800s time travel, rewritten lives, and love. She knows she’s never seen him before, but her feelings refuse to be denied. 

When Tess and John discover an aged newspaper clipping that indicates John’s uncle was hanged for Tess’s murder in 1875, John decides to return to his time to save his uncle’s life. Not really sure she even believes in this time travel stuff, Tess checks the article after John leaves. The words have changed, and she is horrified to find that John has been hanged instead. 

Armed with determination and modern ingenuity, Tess must abandon her past and risk her future for a chance to catch her own killer and find her first love for the second time.

(The sequel to The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains.)

Mark Wilson

Edinburgh, 1645: 
The bubonic plague rages. In a desperate attempt to quarantine the infected, the city leaders seal the residents of Mary King's Close in their underground homes. 

Mary King's Close is reopened, unleashing a mutated plague upon the city residents.

The UK government seals the entire city. Declaring it a dead zone they seal the survivors inside alongside the infected. dEaDINBURGH is declared a no man's land, its residents left for dead and to the dead. 

Joseph MacLeod, born onto the cobbles of the Royal Mile and stolen from the clutches of the infected is determined to escape the quarantined city. Under the guidance of former –marine Padre Jock, he leaves the confines of the city centre and learns how to survive the dead city. 

Alys Shephard, born into an all-women farming community, believes a cure lies in the south of the quarantined zone. The finest combatant in the dead city, Alys burns with anger. The anger of an abandoned child. 

Something much worse than the infected waits for them in the south, in the form of a religious cult led by a madman named Somna who collects gruesome trophies and worships the dead body of a former celebrity. Added to this, the enigmatic Bracha, a supreme survivalist and sadistic former-Royal with his own agenda stalks the teenagers.

Dragons of Wendal
Maria Schneider

Learning new magic isn’t as easy as Zoe expected, especially when the mages at Gorgon University seem dead set against teaching. Add in some necessary late-night sneaking about, and Zoe is almost certain to be kicked out. As for exploring the intriguing mysteries across the border in Wendal, well, it has more teeth than she ever imagined. 

Dragons of Wendal was inspired by the short story, Snitched, Snatched, which is still available in English and Spanish in one e-book. The English version is included in Dragons of Wendal as the prologue. 

Long Live the Suicide King
Aaron Michael Richey

Seventeen-year-old Jim JD Dillinger knows exactly how his miserable suburban life is going to play out. At least drugs added a little chaos to his life, but after almost losing his soul, JD knows he has to quit. Now clean, he figures he has another sixty years of plain old boring life followed by a nasty death. JD decides to pre-empt God by killing himself. However, once he decides to die, his life gets better, more interesting, and then downright strange. New friends. Possible romance. And donuts. Lots of donuts. Once the end is in sight, every minute becomes precious. 

The See-Through Leopard
Sibel Hodge

Most sixteen-year-old girls are obsessed with their looks, but Jazz Hooper's obsessed for a different reason. After a car accident that kills her mum, Jazz is left with severe facial scars and retreats into a dark depression.

Fearing what will happen if Jazz doesn't recover, her dad makes a drastic decision to move them from England to a game reserve in Kenya for a new start. And when Jazz finds an orphaned leopard cub, it sets off a chain of events that lead her on a two year journey of discovery, healing, and love.