Thursday, March 31, 2016

Reprise Review: Don't Tell Anyone by @LaurieBoris #eNovAaW



Genre: Women’s Fiction

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES   Smashwords: YES  

Author:

A freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer, Boris is the author of two other novels, The Joke’s on Me and Drawing Breath. She lives with her husband in the Hudson Valley of New York.

For more, visit Boris’ website.

Description:

“When pneumonia lands Estelle Trager unconscious in the emergency room, it ruins everything for the stubborn 65-year-old woman. She'd been keeping a secret—a deadly secret—that she'd planned on taking to the grave. But now her son Adam and his wife, Liza, know about her tumors. Adam is outraged, but Estelle, who watched her mother and grandmother suffer from breast cancer in the days when no one dared speak its name, has no intention of putting her family or herself through the horrors of cancer treatment. Estelle decides there is only one solution: ask Liza, the 33-year-old daughter-in-law she once called a godless hippie raised by wolves, to kill her.”

Appraisal:

This is the second book I’ve read by Laurie Boris, and although the story and characters are much different, it struck me that the other book, Drawing Breath, had a character suffering from a serious disease too. This is a time-tested recipe to create conflict, one of the more important qualities a book needs to draw a reader in and make them care about what happens.

I would describe Don’t Tell Anyone as character driven. The main point-of-view character is Liza and the story revolves around how she, her husband Adam, their family, and friends deal with Liza’s mother-in-law, Estelle, after she is diagnosed with cancer. Not to mention how Estelle reacts and the chain-reaction among all concerned. It’s an interesting spotlight on the dynamics of relationships, both within families and between friends.

Availability:       Kindle  US      Kindle UK       Smashwords  

Format/Typo Issues:

My reading was based on a beta version. Unable to judge the final product in this area.

Reviewed by: BigAl

Rating: ***** Five stars

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review: The Darker Carnival by @Frank_Tuttle


Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Detective/ Mystery/ Adventure/ Magic

Description:
When Dark’s Diverse Delights arrives by night to set up shows and rides that promise fun and excitement for one and all, the outskirts of Rannit begin to look disturbingly like the nightmares that plague Markhat’s sleep.

Mama Hog has sent him a new client, a cattle rancher with a missing daughter. Markhat’s search reveals genuine terrors lurking amidst the carnival’s tawdry sideshows, where Death itself takes the main stage every evening, just past midnight.

The orchestrator of the murderous, monstrous mayhem is the mysterious carnival master, Ubel Thorkel. And after Buttercup the Banshee is threatened, Markhat is in a race against time to find the carnival’s dark heart and strike it down once and for all—or die trying.”

Author:
Frank Tuttle lives and writes in the perpetually humid wilderness of North Mississippi. Frank tried to be a proper Southern author and write about pickups and hound dogs, but trolls and magic kept creeping into his stories, so Frank is a fantasy author. Although hounds do make occasional appearances in his fiction.”

To learn more about Mr. Tuttle’s series, The Markhat Files, and his other Young Adult series, Paths of Shadow, check out his website. I also recommend checking out his highly entertaining blog or stalking him on Facebook.

Appraisal:
In this ninth book of The Markhat Files, I see changes on the horizon. Markhat’s world is shifting. Characters are transforming, growing in ways I would never have foreseen. However, Markhat’s expanding abilities are not surprising to me. I think past installments of the series foreshadowed these changes. This story also introduces two new personae who will no doubt be appearing in future sequels. One mystical, named Shango the storm-sniffer, and the other a runt of a troll named Slim. Up until this story, I felt that most of The Markhat Files could be read as standalone books and in almost any order. While this is still true of the overall book, the secondary characters are gaining importance in the continuing story line and many nuances may be lost when read out of order.

If you are one to feel uneasy about carnival sideshows and clowns, you may find The Darker Carnival unnerving. What starts out as a simple missing person investigation quickly turns dark and nefarious. This is no ordinary carnival; magic compels everything about Dark’s Diverse Delights. When Buttercup is captured, it becomes personal for Markhat and Mama Hog. With Evis deathly ill and Stitches indisposed, it is left to Markhat and Mama Hog to get to the heart of the carnival and set things right again. It is a rollercoaster ride of twists and dead-ends until puzzle pieces start falling into place. Then Markhat finds himself confronted with something he never imagined he would find himself doing or having the will to carry out.

This is a game-changing installment in The Markhat Files and I am looking forward to further additions. Frank Tuttle’s books are, as always, a must buy for me.


Buy now from:       Kindle US        Kindle UK

FYI:
The Darker Carnival is Book 9 in Mr. Tuttle’s series, The Markhat Files. I think this book could be read as a standalone; however, some character nuances would be missed. I don’t think that would lessen your enjoyment of this story.

Format/Typo Issues:
I found no significant issues with proofing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Print Length: 226 pages


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Review: Finding the Phoenix by Caitlin O'Connor aka @caity_connor



Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy/New Adult

Description:
Descended from humans and a vanished race of elemental beings, only the Awakened know the truth about our world. Only they can hold back the fanatic Handmaidens of the Skaath Diurga--shadow creatures born from an ancient betrayal.
However, the Circle of Awakened is incomplete without the Child of Heaven: a human destined to Wield the Spirit element. Before she can Awaken, she must die.

Heaven has no memory of dying, except the experience of death itself. It’s that memory, of a place called ‘The Between’, that convinces her the man claiming to be her Guardian might not be completely crazy. Besides, even crazy is better than the life she’s leaving behind to be the Circle’s Wielder of Spirit. All she has to worry about now is her training, and figuring out how to fit in with the Awakened.

Tragedy strikes when one of the Guardians is killed, and ulterior motives thrust Heaven into the middle of the Circle’s quest for justice. She’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for the people she’s come to care about.”

Author:
Caitlin O’Connor searches for truth in fiction, and drags her characters through hell to find it. A proud eccentric who aspires to be omniscient, she enjoys listening to music, trying to understand physics, and admiring unusual works of art. She lives in South Africa with her son and a malevolent lovebird that requires daily libations of blood.” Learn more about her at her website, or visit her Facebook page.

Appraisal:
I grabbed this quote from Ms. O’Conner’s website: “Reality is my greatest influence as a writer, and people my chief inspiration. I write to explore that enigmatic alchemy that exists between light and dark, and to search for beauty in the dark corners of the soul.” Trust me, she accomplishes this in her debut novel, Finding the Phoenix.

Heaven, Vinny for short, is a complicated and interesting character. We don’t know what her real name was before she died, but learn quickly she comes from an abusive background. She is very guarded about her past and it will take time to fully know her. I do like what I have seen so far though. While she is insecure, she is learning to be more assertive and to trust as she becomes more confident.

The premise of the plot is good versus evil with a load of twists thrown in to complicate the story line. Shades of gray are explored in fundamental and personal ideals. The Handmaidens and shadow creatures are frightening and devastatingly evil. One of the things I enjoyed most in this story is the development of relationships’ between the Guardians and their Wielders. Ms. O’Conner has an excellent handle on all of her players. Heaven has a lot to learn about herself, and I believe the Circle isn’t even aware of the reaches of her abilities. I am enjoying the roller-coaster ride so far and can’t wait to see how things develop in this series.

I would recommend Finding the Phoenix to all readers who enjoy Urban Fantasy with interesting, complicated characters.


Buy now from:    Kindle US      Kindle UK

FYI:
Finding the Phoenix is the first book in The Celestial Talisman Series. It contains strong language and British and/or South African English spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:
I encountered no significant proofing errors.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Print Length: 235 pages



Friday, March 25, 2016

Review: Murphy’s Luck by @BenjaminLaskin



Genre: Speculative Fiction/ Contemporary Fantasy/ Young Adult/ Comedy

Description:
Master of a thousand hobbies, but jinxed from birth with horrendous luck, Murphy Drummer has developed some eye-popping abilities. When Murphy goes in search of a luck-free zone where the world might be safe from his puzzling disorder, charmed Joy Daley stumbles into his whammy-charged path. Churning out both miracles and mayhem, Murphy whimsically upends the lives of everyone in Joy's life.

At first, Murphy's victims question who he is; at last, they'll be questioning who they aren't. A comical love story of wood-tapping proportions.”

Author:
Benjamin Laskin grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. He has traveled extensively and lived in a number of countries, including many years in Hamamatsu, Japan, where he taught English and wrote. Benjamin can now be found sauntering through the maze of narrow, stony alleyways in the ancient and legend-rich town of Safed, in Israel's upper Galilee, where he is currently at work on his next novel.” For more information, please visit Mr. Laskin’s website or stop by his Facebook Author page.

Appraisal:
I don’t read a lot of Literary or Speculative Fiction, however this was fun. It included just enough fantasy to keep me interested and the wordplay was entertaining. Poor Murphy feels like he is cursed and he has separated himself from society as much as possible for what he perceives as the greater good for all concerned. He has built his own sanctuary in and around his house. He fills his time learning new hobbies and writing about them in his syndicated newspaper articles. He also corresponds with his readers. When his devoted grandfather, who raised him from infancy, passes away he sees no other choice than to quit his job and move to an even more secluded environment. Of course he doesn’t make it very far before disasters start happening around him again.

The sequence of events and characters introduced into the storyline are unique but not out of the ordinary. They are all much more realistic than any of Murphy’s neighbors were in his old neighborhood. (They were all a lot of miserable people looking to place blame on anyone besides themselves for their misfortunes.) When Joy Daley, a journalist, encounters Murphy, she is intrigued and puzzled by what she sees happening around him. Joy is unlike anyone Murphy has ever met and he isn’t quite sure what to make of her. However, he finally accepts her kindness, and Joy is able to slowly bring a fresh perspective into Murphy’s life.

I loved Joy and Murphy's journey as much as I relished the well-developed secondary characters of Brock Parker, Joy’s straight-laced police detective fiancĂ©, and the misty-eyed tarot card reader Freya who states, “The Universe works in mysterious ways…” as Brock’s world is turned upside down. I found this a relatively quick, light read with skillful levity in all the right places.

Availability:     Kindle US       Kindle UK       Paperback

FYI:
A small amount of adult language, hardly worth mentioning.

Format/Typo Issues:
I found this well edited.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Print Length: 252 pages


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Review: Cloud on Silver by John Christopher



Genre: Literary Fiction

Description:
A disparate group of Londoners are brought together by Sweeney, a mysteriously charismatic man of wealth, for a luxury cruise in the South Pacific – they know not why. Sailing far from the normal shipping routes, the ship weighs anchor just off an uninhabited tropical island. Whilst its passengers are ashore exploring, the ship catches fire and sinks beneath the waves. 

With no means of communication with the outside world and no hope of rescue, passengers and crew must find a way to survive. In the scramble for power that ensues, the distinction between master and servant becomes meaningless as the more ruthless among them clamber to the top. 

The inscrutable Sweeney, meanwhile, sits alone on a hillside. Coolly aloof, he watches the veneer of civilization disintegrate as his fellows fall prey to fear, desperation, and barbarity.
 

Author:
Sam Youd was born in Lancashire in April 1922, during an unseasonable snowstorm.

As a boy, he was devoted to the newly emergent genre of science-fiction: 'In the early thirties,' he later wrote, 'we knew just enough about the solar system for its possibilities to be a magnet to the imagination.'

Over the following decades, his imagination flowed from science-fiction into general novels, cricket novels, medical novels, gothic romances, detective thrillers, light comedies ... In all he published fifty-six novels and a myriad of short stories, under his own name as well as eight different pen-names.

He is perhaps best known as John Christopher, author of the seminal work of speculative fiction, The Death of Grass (today available as a Penguin Classic), and a stream of novels in the genre he pioneered, young adult dystopian fiction, beginning with The Tripods Trilogy.

Appraisal:
I recently enjoyed The White Voyage by John Christopher, so I thought I’d give his latest novel a try. As with The White Voyage, this novel deals with the social interactions within a small group of marooned travelers, but unlike the previous story, the action that cuts them off from the civilized world is no accident.
Once again, I enjoyed the author’s writing style, filled with fresh imagery and believable dialogue. Taken at face value, the characters could be seen as hard to believe, but the author develops their idiosyncrasies in such a gradual and believable manner that I found myself agreeing that, yes, this is exactly how they would act. I particularly enjoyed Lydia’s decent to her basest personality.
The story has many similarities to Golding’s Lord of The Flies. And although the ending seemed rather rushed to me and left open questions about Sweeny’s motives that would have been interesting to explore, this was an enjoyable read, and the journey more than made up for that minor quibble. 

Buy now from:            Kindle US     Kindle UK

FYI:
English spelling.

Format/Typo Issues:
None.

Rating:  **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber


Print Length: 239 pages

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reprise Review: Wytchfire by @MRMeyerhofer


Genre: Epic Fantasy

Approximate word count: 115,000-120,000 words

Author:

Michael Meyerhofer also writes poetry, publishing five poetry chap books, and has won awards for his work. He enjoys weight lighting, medieval weapons and history. Meyerhofer current teaches at Ball State University. You can learn more about him at his website.

Description:

Rowen was kicked out of his knight’s training only to find himself alone on the road. Several strange encounters later, which are too much to be just coincidences, and Rowen is looking to lead an army of gang members, knights and citizens against an army fortified with a ghoulish demon they call Nightmare and sorceresses. Rowen must rely on the people he meets along his quest to aid him and save the city of Lyos from crumbling.

Appraisal:

In his acknowledgements, Meyerhofer refers to himself as a boyhood Tolkein fan. It’s obvious from reading Wytchfire where his inspirations came from by using multiple races that have to band together to fight a strong foe.

While the inspiration is there, Meyerhofer is able to make his own world using a rich history, reluctant heroes and a few surprises along the way

The book is the first of a trilogy and is set up that way. There isn’t a huge cliffhanger at the end, but more of the end of one battle while we know the rest of the war is ready to rage on.

Wytchfire may start off a bit slow, but the action picks up fairly quickly with Meyerhofer not dawdling too long to give the reader background information. He’s able to blend it into the story while continuing with the current action.

One of my favorite parts was the distinction of two strong female characters. They held their own against anyone who confronted them and were layered characters. My only gripe is that they are both, of course, easy on the eyes, which has to be noted by the men looking at them. It’s nice when I read a story where the men and women are described similarly without bringing beauty up when it comes to the women and not even mentioning that aspect when it comes to male characters.

However, Wytchfire is a great read for those who love epic fantasies – as I do. It certainly filled its role and feels like the start of a great adventure.

Availability:    Kindle US      Kindle UK     Paperback 

FYI:

The first book of a trilogy.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Reviewed by: Sooz

Rating: *****Five stars

Monday, March 21, 2016

Reprise Review: Until My Soul Gets It Right by @KarenBerner


Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

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

Author:

An award winning magazine writer and editor, Karen Wojcik Berner’s first novel, A Whisper to a Scream, was the initial book of a planned series, with each focusing on one or two members of a book club. This book is the second of the series.

Berner also has a blog called Bibliophilic Blather, which features flash fiction (either her own or a guest’s) each Friday. Another frequent feature is Editing for Grammarphobes, short grammar, language, and editing tips that are beneficial for everyone, whether they think they are a writer or not. I know her tips help me. For more, visit the author’s website.

Description:

“You can’t run away from yourself.

Catherine Elbert has never been good at making decisions, whether it was choosing an ice cream flavor as a small child, or figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up. The only thing Catherine knew for sure was there had to be more to life than being stuck on her family’s farm in Wisconsin.
While watching a PBS travel show, Catherine becomes entranced by Portland, Maine. The ocean. The lobsters. The rugged coast. Nothing could be more different from the flat, nondescript farmlands of Burkesville.

Despite her parents threatening to disown her and her brothers taking bets on how many days until she comes home, Catherine settles on Peaks Island, off the coast of Portland.

She is finally free.

Or so she thought.”

Appraisal:

I loved the first book of The Bibliophiles series, A Whisper to a Scream. I knew the remaining books in the series would each focus on specific members of the book club introduced in the first book, and wondered how that would work. Would the stories be chronological, happening at the same time (which seemed like it would present problems), or something else. It turned out to be something else, at least in the case of Until My Soul Gets It Right.

If you’ve read the first book, you’ll remember Catherine as the “actress” who, if you reacted to her the same as I did, might have been a bit of an enigma, and who possibly rubbed you the wrong way at times. This book goes back to Catherine’s childhood, and brings her story forward to the present. It changed my opinion of Catherine for the better. It’s a story that anyone should be able to relate who has wanted to escape where they grew up, for whatever reason. Berner has a talent with prose that flows smoothly and puts the reader right where they belong, inside the character’s head. Until My Soul Gets It Right is another winner.

Availability:      Kindle US      Kindle UK   

FYI:

A small amount of adult language and adult situations.

Although the second book in the series, reading the first book is not a prerequisite for full enjoyment of this book

Format/Typo Issues:

The review copy I received was an advance reader copy, so I’m unable to comment in this area.

Reviewed by: BigAl

Rating: ***** Five stars

Friday, March 18, 2016

Reprise Review: Entangled Thorns by @AuthorMelindaC



Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Drama

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Author:

Melinda Clayton is an odd mix of psychotherapist and writer who has always loved to read, and who loves to explore the motivations behind difficult choices and decisions. She has an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration, and is a licensed psychotherapist in the states of Florida and Colorado. Her vast experience working in the field of mental health gives her a unique perspective on human behaviors. Clayton lives in central Florida with her husband, two children, and various cats. She is the author of Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain. Learn more at her website or at her Goodreads author site.

Description:

After the mysterious death of their brother Luke at the age of thirteen, seventeen year-old Beth and her younger sister Naomi ran away from home, planning to never return. Beth Sloan has spent the majority of her life trying to escape the memories of a difficult childhood. Born into the infamous Pritchett family of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, she grew up hard, surrounded not only by homemade stills and corn liquor, but by an impoverished family that more often than not preferred life on the wrong side of the law.

Beth manages to suppress the painful memories and create a comfortable, if troubled, life with her husband Mark and their two children in an upscale suburb outside ofMemphisTennessee. Twenty-seven years later old resentments and family secrets are awakened by a letter from Kay Langley that their mother is dying and it is time to make amends. Beth, at the urging of her sister Naomi, agrees to return to Cedar Hollow risking everything to finally face the truth about what happened to Luke that long ago summer night. 

Appraisal:

Told through multiple points of view, Ms Clayton does an excellent job devoting each chapter to a single character in this heart-wrenching story. She takes us on an emotional journey into the past of a dysfunctional, but proud family, to discover how abuse affects all members of a family and the dynamics of the abuse that surrounds them. By singling out and developing each character individually she explores how these cycles tend to continue, how the courageous ones try to break the cycle, and how things are not always the way they seem. Not many authors have the expertise to accomplish this without making judgments the way Ms Clayton does.

I love the style in which this story is written, through inner dialogue, we are allowed to feel what each character is feeling and gain an understanding of why things are the way they are and how each character perceives them. We are also given insight through the eyes of Kay Langley, the owner of the local cafĂ© that serves as the town’s hub. Through her eyes we see a caring outsider’s view of how the town views this family and its individual members. One of my favorite elements of this story is the fact that Beth took her seventeen year-old daughter, Marissa, along with her on this difficult trip to face her ghosts. With Marissa along we are given three generations of view points.

This character driven story flows well considering we are getting the story from five different characters. It is incredibly well told and I enjoyed my trip back to Cedar Hollows. There is a definite feeling of hope as this story draws to an end and I found it inspiring. I will share this book with my daughters and grand daughters. One of the things I appreciate about reading a hard story like this one is it makes me reevaluate my life and I realize my life is not so bad after all; things could be a whole lot worse. Melinda Clayton has won herself a spot on my ‘must buy’ list for future books.

Availability:       Kindle US       Kindle UK      Paperback 

FYI:

Although this is the third book about Cedar Hollow Ms Clayton has written, I believe it can be read as a standalone story. You may miss some of the richness of the minor characters or of the area in general in doing so though.

At the end of this story Ms Clayton has included questions for book clubs to consider after reading her book. This would be a great book for discussion because everyone has their own story and view point and I am sure everyone can identify with one of more of the characters in this book. I know I did.

Format/Typo Issues:

I noticed NONE at all.

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Reprise Review: Lost in Thought by @SimonJTownley



Genre: Psychological-Thriller

Approximate word count: 75,000-80,000 words

Author:

The author is a freelance writer living in Devon, in the South of England, who has published a number of novels and short stories.

Description:

Richard Trescerrick dedicated his life to creating the Brainscape—a device that provides access to another person’s mind. When he discovers the government agency providing his funding intend to use his invention to control people’s thoughts, he hides the final algorithm that will complete the machine. During a brutal attack by a government agent at his home, Richard is knocked into unconsciousness and becomes comatose. A group of government agents, law enforcement, and psychologists, aided by his estranged son, Luke, enter his mind using the Brainscape and search for the algorithm.

Appraisal:

First off, let me say this is one of the best-written books I’ve read this year. Mr. Townley has a solid grasp on the craft of writing fiction. Sentences so lean that, like the notes in a Mozart symphony, you’d be hard-pressed to pick a spare word that could be removed without reducing the story.

The opening few chapters paint a picture of the challenging relationship between Richard and his son, Luke. I empathized with Luke, and with his son who has some undefined mental challenges of his own. This ‘real world’ introduction is set against a beautifully drawn backdrop of a Cornish coastal town.

But the story doesn’t dwell in the physical world for long. Most of the words are used to follow the characters as they ride the roller coaster of Richard’s imagination inside his comatose father’s mind.

And inside the Brainscape, it’s Jumanji meets A Christmas Carol (the parts where Scrooge is taken back in time), with a smattering of Alice in Wonderland. Nothing is as it seems, and everything is triggered or controlled through metaphors that relate to the old man’s life and loves. Luke learns aspects of his father’s life hitherto misunderstood, and in the process he also learns about himself. As Luke battles the evil government agent (who understands how to control the Brainscape-world) the action is non-stop: a psychedelic happening driven by words instead of pills.

I felt certain reluctance to surrender to this imaginary world. After all, I was enjoying the introductory story, and the idea of spending most of the book in a place where there were no rules that I could fathom, didn’t appeal. However, the imagery was so strong, and the pacing so fast that I soon left my niggling Doubting Thomas behind, let go of the reins of reality, and went along for the ride.

And it was a lot of fun.

Format/Typo Issues:

English spelling and English settings. I enjoyed this aspect of the story because, for, me the locations were familiar. I don’t believe this would cause a problem, or lessen the enjoyment, for a reader unfamiliar with England.

Availability:    Kindle  US         Kindle UK

Rating: ***** Five stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber