Friday, February 26, 2021

Review: An Inchworm Takes Wing by Robert Hays


 

Genre: Literary Fiction/War Fiction

Description:

“In the tranquil solitude of a darkened Room 12 in the ICU on the sixth floor of Memorial Hospital’s Wing C, a mortal existence is drawing to an end. His head and torso swathed in bandages, his arms and legs awkwardly positioned in hard casts and layers of heavy gauze, he’s surrounded by loved ones yet unable to communicate, isolated within his own thoughts and memories.

He does not believe himself to be an extraordinary man, simply an ordinary one, a man who’s made choices, both good and bad. A man who was sometimes selfish, sometimes misguided, sometimes kind and wise. A man who fought in a war in which he lost a part of his soul, who then became a teacher and worked hard to repair the damage.

When faced with the end, how does one reconcile the pieces of an ordinary life? Does a man have the right to wish for wings to carry him to a summit he believes he doesn’t deserve to reach?”

Author:

“Robert Hays is the author of five previous novels and has written, edited, or collaborated on a half-dozen works of non-fiction. His short stories have appeared in anthologies and he has published numerous academic journal and popular periodical articles. Selections from three of his novels have gained Pushcart Prize nominations. He is a U. S. Army veteran and, though retired from classroom teaching, holds professor emeritus rank on the faculty of the University of Illinois. He lives in the beautiful southern Illinois wooded hill country about which he writes.”

Appraisal:

It’s probably obvious to most people that any particular book is going to resonate with some people more than others, depending on the specifics of the reader’s life and experiences. I suspect those who have been in the military, especially during war, would be at the top of that list. But really anyone of a certain age who is old enough to remember the Vietnam War or anyone who has had friends or family serve in the military during an armed conflict are likely to find this story speaks to them. If you’ve come close to death and done the cliched evaluation of your life, you’ll get it too. But ultimately a person doesn’t have to have experienced something close to what a book’s protagonist has to imagine themselves in that position and learn from it. This is one that everyone could benefit from to some degree.

Hopefully without saying too much about the plot, An Inchworm Takes Wing is the story of a man who was in a bad car accident and is now in the hospital, alive and able to think, but unaware of what is going on around him. He knows he’s alive, but doesn’t know how likely he is to survive or become conscious of anything outside of his head. He’s done some good in life, but also some things he’s ashamed of. He’s struggling in his own mind, hoping he’ll have a chance to try to correct or at least apologize for some of his mistakes and haunted by those things he’ll never be able to fix. In the meantime, his loved ones are holding vigil in his room, going through their own struggles.

This book is unique, both the story and the structure (how many books have you read where the protagonist was unconscious), but it should get you thinking about life, what’s important, and possibly even what you hope your own legacy to be.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on an ARC (advance reader copy), so I’m not in a position to judge the final product in this area.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Reprise Review: The Rapist by Les Edgerton

 


Genre: Crime/Thriller

Description:

Meet Truman Ferris Pinter, a self-confessed rapist and murderer, currently residing on death row, hours away from his execution.

Author:

Les Edgerton is the author of fifteen books. He is an ex-con and served two years for a single charge of burglary, reduced from 182, two strong-arm robberies, an armed robbery, and a count of possession with intent to deal. Today, he's completely reformed. Prior to this Les served in the U.S. Navy as a cryptographer during the Cuban Crisis and the beginning of the Vietnam War.

After making parole, Les obtained a B.A. from Indiana University and then received his MFA in Writing (Fiction) from Vermont College. He teaches workshops nationwide on writing. Born in Texas, Les now lives in Indiana with his family.

You can learn more about the author at his blog.

Appraisal:

If you’ve read the author bio you’ll probably appreciate that I approached The Rapist with a degree of trepidation – Les Edgerton is one scary dude. In addition the subject matter would probably be difficult. The cover, of a woman’s face, eyes sightless, is haunting.

And I was right, it isn’t an easy read. It’s one of those stories you push away after finishing it, then pull it back again and look at it in a whole new light. Clearly Edgerton likes to jolt his readers. In fact, afterwards I felt a bit grubby having been in the mind of the main character, Truman Ferris Pinter, for so long.

Socially inept (a gross understatement) and incredibly self-important, Truman is a strange guy. At the outset we meet Truman in prison, he’s on death row having been found guilty of the rape and murder of a young woman. Through the initial part of the story Truman admits and even justifies his actions in a quite unique voice. He feels morally justified in his actions because of who she is and who he is. He is a class above.

Here’s an example from the outset:

He will inhale you, devour you, eat the pulp of your soul and spit out the husk. Behind his eyes lies nothing save the fevered light of unholy candles.

And this is Truman describing himself. Whilst awaiting his sentence for death in a matter of hours time (which adds another layer of tension) he recounts the situation which put him there and we learn about Truman’s life and experiences – some of which are strange – before he goes through a personal change. I won’t say more, you’ll need to discover these for yourself.

Should I feel sorry for Truman? Really I shouldn’t, but eventually I became drawn to the oddball. It was a strange experience.

The writing is very sharp, the prose as rich and wealthy as a billionaire. I stayed up late for three nights in a row to finish The Rapist, only going to bed when I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open, it’s that compelling a story.

I haven’t picked up anything quite like The Rapist before. I probably never will again.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A rape scene but not overly graphic.

Added for Reprise Review: The Rapist by Les Edgerton was a nominee in the Thriller category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran November 17, 2013

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Approximate word count: 45 -50,000 words


Monday, February 22, 2021

Review: The Curious Touch of Cupid’s Son: An Erotic Comedy Between Two Consenting Demigods by Dave Diotalevi

 


Genre: Erotic Romance/Humor/Fantasy/Mythology

Description:

“Karl Sparks knows everything about love except how to fall in it.

He also doesn't know who his mother is, doesn't know who his father is, doesn't know why he has an obsession to define love, and doesn't know why he can't get an erection--nope, never had one.

What he does know it that his touch--however slight or incidental--rockets any woman into the most intense and dizzying orgasm of her life, whenever and wherever it launches (a Midas-touch curse he would do anything to be rid of).

Happens 100% of the time--that is until he literally bumps into Aurora (Rory) Sky, who does know who her mother is (she thinks). Karl's touch has no effect on her, and to her surprise, the unnatural ability she's always owned of infallibly controlling men through her verbal commands fails to faze Karl.

Her presence does give Karl his first erection.

She, unable to trust any of the men she mystically dominates, and he who can't touch women--shouldn't these two misfits who only fit each other find romance? Fall in love? Get intimate? Become lovers?

They discover secrets about themselves and each other in a series of laughably lusty adventures to find the three pieces of The God Prism, a mythic relic capable of lifting their cursed abilities.

The unwitting lovers' passion deepens until it's ultimately tested by a selfless choice of sacrifice and devotion.”

Author:

“Dave Diotalevi was trained in nuclear physics and engineering, but has traded up to the fusion of words. He is a published nonfiction author and poet, and has also written feature articles for national magazines. In addition, he created a trademarked temporary tattoo language system that was licensed to a national marketing corporation.

For relaxation, Dave runs every day, and has an ongoing continuous streak of over thirty years. Dave said, ‘To keep a running streak like this going, you have to be both stubborn and lucky.’ Those who know him can tell you which outweighs the other. Dave lives in central Massachusetts…”

I found this info on his blogger page for his first novel, which is no longer on Kindle. Mr. Diotalevi has two Young Adult eBooks available, My Year AtoZ and Love Potion Homework. He also has a Facebook page.

Appraisal:

Karl Sparks is a thirty-something man who is writing a book about love. He was raised in a Catholic orphanage, has never had a girlfriend, or an erection. However, an accidental touch of any female sets her off into an uncontrollable orgasm. Which is why he wears long sleeves and surgical gloves. That is until he literally bumps into Aurora Sky when he is quickly exiting a crowded elevator trying to put distance between the puddle of a woman in the midst of an orgasm and himself. Bumping into Aurora (Rory) causes her to drop several files on the floor. When she orders Karl to pick them up for her. He doesn’t do as she mandates. Aurora is intrigued. All other men bend to her commands, but not Karl. Karl does however, get his first erection!

The Curious Touch of Cupid’s Son has more twists and turns than a roller-coaster. Several secondary characters are as well developed as the main characters. Lacy and Tommy, downstairs neighbors were an integral part of the story, they added dimension and humor to the tale. Rory’s boss is on a mission to locate the three pieces of the God Prism, an ancient artifact from Greek mythology. It’s evident that she is an unpleasant person, but gives no clue of the evil nemesis she really is. This is an engaging story I really enjoyed. There are several elements that are seamlessly woven together. The sex scenes are outshined by the storyline, thus becoming secondary. The parentage of Rory and Karl become intertwined with the God Prism and they are vital to reassembling the artifact. While there is a heartwarming scene toward the end, the ending is heart wrenching. In my mind I worked my heart around a more satisfying ending which could very well happen.     

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

“Intended for Mature (?) & Fun-loving Consenting Adults (18+).”

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing misses.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words


Friday, February 19, 2021

Review: All in The Name of God by James Weir

 


Genre: Dystopian/Thriller/LGBT

Description:

“In this fast-moving dystopian thriller, Evangelicals have taken over the United States government. Weaponizing religion, they have imposed their agenda. Term limits have been abolished, giving the President unprecedented power. Homosexuality is a criminal offense. Muslims have been made second-class citizens, and have lost their right to vote. Women no longer control their reproductive rights. Information is controlled and monitored by a covert government agency called The Slayers. The Department of Cultural Affairs keeps a tight rein on the freedom of American citizens.

Abby Williams, a former army weapons specialist, vows revenge after her girlfriend is murdered during a botched DCA raid. On the run after escaping from a government conversion center, she meets up with Kyla Dirksen, the Governor of California. Plotting with like-minded people to defeat President Wilson Wright and his band of accomplices, they work to overthrow the dictatorship that the American government has become. Will they succeed? Or will the unbridled repression continue?”

Author:

“A life-long fan of action thrillers, James Weir has always wanted to be the next Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler. All in the Name of God is the result, his first book in the Abby Williams series. When he's not busy figuring out plot twists and turns, James is a small animal veterinarian. In addition to clinical practice, he holds graduate degrees in pathology and in public health. He has also worked as a stand-up comedian, and has four published works of funny haiku poetry.”

Appraisal:

By definition a dystopian novel takes a political direction that some people perceive as the right one, imagines movement in that direction resulting in a slide down a slippery slope, and the extreme result that might come about. Not only is the story a vicarious adventure for the reader as you hopefully pull for things to work out in the favor of the protagonist, but if you’re paying attention it should get you thinking. Sure, the idea of a slippery slope is usually a fallacy, but not always, plus you’ll hopefully consider whether any movement in the direction being considered is a good idea.

The story here is a good one. The direction that resulted in the start down the slippery slope is definitely one that some people would like to see and in some ways this was hitting a bit too close to home based on some current events. In other words, the story is everything I look for in a dystopian novel. However, there was one big problem I found. If this book was proofread, the proofreader did an atrocious job. None of the issues I saw were especially bad, running from homonym errors (waive instead of wave) to little words like ‘a’ or ‘to’ missing from the sentence, to an extra or missing character (‘he’ instead of ‘her’ for one example), but the sheer number of these was well beyond what is acceptable. A bit (okay, a lot) more polish in this regard and I’d recommend this book. As it stands, only if you’re much more tolerant of these kind of issues than I am.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

Numerous proofreading misses.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Reprise Review: Cinders & Ash: A Cinderella Story by Rosetta Bloom

 


Genre: Erotic Romance/Fairy Tale

Description:

“Ella wants nothing more than to leave her wicked stepmother and spoiled stepsisters behind. Only, she needs money to get away. When Ella's stepmother, Lady Kenna, learns Ella has been secretly helping out the apothecary for a few pence, the evil woman gets her stepdaughter fired, and takes all of Ella's hard earned money.

Devastated and desperate, Ella decides to try the job a friend told her about: go to the castle to provide 'companionship' to a visiting noble.

Ash is a prince confined to a castle. The queen is convinced magic fairies are real and are out to do her son harm. That doesn't stop the young prince from having companionship delivered. When a beautiful maiden is brought to him one evening, he's completely intrigued. By her beauty, by her demeanor, by the fact that she'll only give her name as Cinders.

In this version of Cinderella retold, Cinders & Ash heat things up as they search for their happily ever after.”

Author:

Rosetta Bloom is a pen name for a thriller writer whose desire is to tell great stories filled with romance and passion. She loves adding a sexy twist of passion to give old tales new life. Her endeavors are, The Princess, the Pea and the Night of Passion and Beauty and Her Beastly Love.

To learn more, visit Rosetta Bloom’s website.

Appraisal:

Cinders & Ash is double the length of Ms. Bloom’s tales so far. The result is a well told story with well-defined characters and a plot of conspiracy against the throne. Prince John Ashton learns that prophecies and fairies should not be taken lightly. He has led a very sheltered life because his mother is a believer and convinced the prophecy and fairies are real.

Ella is a wise young lady who has only one true friend, Faye. An orphan whose life had been full of tough breaks, Faye and Ella bonded over shared miseries and became fast friends. Ella realized she was better off than Faye, but she knew she could trust her. Ella needs money and fast so she can run far enough away that her step-mother will not come looking for her. She decided that being a “companion” to a visiting noble was not too low to sink to get enough money to start a new life. She didn’t plan to develop feelings for this noble. She also didn’t realize who this mystery man was. Ella also didn’t intend to get kidnapped. She didn’t see who sneaked up behind her and put that foul smelling rag over her nose and mouth.

Ash thought he had the perfect plan to help Cinders out of her dilemma and get her out of her step-mothers house, until she disappears. Now he is going to need the luck from fairies, and much more, to rescue Cinders and figure out what is going on with her kidnappers. Could the Prince possibly be their real target and why? The conspirator thinks they have it all figured out.

I enjoyed the scenery around the Crystal Pond, I thought this was a great addition to the story, as well as the story behind it. I also enjoyed the way Ms. Bloom brought in the pumpkin carriage and mice without using magic! Very clever and well done.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Cinders & Ash is book 3 in the Passion-Filled Fairy Tales series. This is an erotic romance so there are graphic scenes, if that offends you then you should find another story. Original review ran January 25, 2016

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Monday, February 15, 2021

Review: Apparent Horizon by Patrick Morgan

 


Genre: Thriller

Description:

“With no tomorrow, what are we capable of today?

On the eve of his best friend's wedding, Michael is warned by an old classmate, now a NASA scientist, that a gamma ray burst from a nearby exploding star will hit the Earth the following morning at 11:13 a.m. - an incident that will irrevocably destroy the ozone layer, disrupt the food chain, and ultimately prove cataclysmic for all life on the planet.

Michael and the groom-to-be, Drew, laugh off the prediction as a demented joke. However, at precisely 11:13 a.m. the next day, a blinding light in the sky disrupts Drew's wedding. News media outlets dismiss the cosmic event as a harmless phenomenon, but Michael knows better. Wrestling with the burden of his truth, uncertain of how much time he has left or just what to do with it, Michael finds himself alienated from everything and everyone he's ever known.

Under Drew's influence, Michael begins to transform his rather mundane life, previously shackled by powerlessness and fear, into something more unrestrained and ultimately dangerous. Feeling the weight of an unseen doomsday clock ticking his final days away, he pushes the moral envelope further and further on a quest for control over his own reality - no matter who might suffer for it.”

Author:

“Patrick Morgan is a novelist, playwright, and poet. A graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in theatre, Patrick has always enjoyed telling stories in one form or another.

After having spent a long and memorable stint in Los Angeles, Patrick currently resides in Austin with his dog Cider.”

For more, check out his website.

Appraisal:

The premise of this story is an interesting one. If you along with everyone else in the world have only a short time to live, would you live your life differently? If the answer is yes, in what way? Does it matter if no one else or at least very few people know what is happening? Do you become a better person? Do you start knocking items off your bucket lists as fast as you can? Do you no longer worry about what is considered acceptable, figuring the consequences will never catch up to you? The answer to this is one that could go many different ways. Then, at least if I’m the reader, I wonder how credible the “we’re all going to die” claim really is. I’m not sure the answers to these questions, at least if I was living out this story, would be the same for me as they were for Michael, the protagonist, or his in-the-know friends. But I’m not sure it wouldn’t be either. Ultimately, I found Apparent Horizon to be both thought provoking and suspenseful as I wondered where things were going to go.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some mild adult content.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Friday, February 12, 2021

Review: Crossing Over by Paul Clayton

 


Genre: Political Thriller

Description:

“Crossing Over by Paul Clayton tells the story of an American family trying to survive the beginnings of the second civil war. Set some time in the not-too-distant future, the existence of two simultaneous presidents has split the country along ideological lines. The protests are becoming violent, sections of the country have formed their own militias, along with the militias of the two warring parties. In the midst of shortages of food and other necessities, gangs and thugs are terrorizing formerly safe neighborhoods. Realizing that it is no longer safe to remain in their home, Mike McNerney decides to pack the camper and flee to Canada with his wife, Marie, and disabled teenage daughter, Elly. Unfortunately, everyone else has the same idea.”

Author:

Paul Clayton is the author of several books, many of them taking places at times in the past, and some in the future.

Appraisal:

This book has a few things going for it. The most obvious is the main story conflict, will the McNerney family, Mike, Marie, and Elly, succeed in their attempt to flee to Canada? Just accept the premise of the story and go with it, and you’ve got an interesting thriller with characters I wanted to see safely make it to the other side of the border. But if you want more, let your mind wander, mulling over the premise of the story of where the US has gotten itself, how that is said to have happened and what the results were. I found myself asking and pondering lots of questions. How realistic is this? What would it take to go this far off the rails? If things were headed this direction, how would I react? Are Canadians complaining about the country south of the border with refugees invading their country? Do they complain that we aren’t sending our best people? Yeah, my mind goes in some strange directions sometimes. Hopefully we aren’t headed for anything resembling this story. But as something to get the thoughts going, as well as sharing an intense adventure vicariously with the McNerney family, it did the trick.

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: 35-40,000 words


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Review: Tripping the Flash Fantastic by Allison Symes

 



Genre: Short Story Collection/Flash Fiction

Description:

A collection of short, short stories, also known as flash fiction.

Author:

Allison Symes writes short stories, sometimes very short. This is the second collection of flash fiction she’s published.

Appraisal:

For those not familiar with flash fiction, it is extremely short-short stories. While I don’t think there is any official definition, the consensus seems to be that the maximum size is something under 1,000 words. Within the flash fiction universe there are other descriptions used for flash fiction of different sizes, a drabble for example is a story of less than 100 words. The stories in this collection are almost all well short of that 1,000 word limit. (With just short of 60 stories in less than 11,000 words, the average is something shy of 200 words apiece, some only half that.)

I find flash fiction is fun to read, not only for the stories, which in this instance includes a lot that would fall outside my typical genres, but at only a few hundred words, even if a specific story isn’t your thing, it’s over quickly. I also find myself admiring the ability a good story teller has to tell so much in so few words. With a wide range of stories with different flavors like I found here, I suspect any reader will find some they’ll like, some that will convince them that maybe they need to give longer books with certain elements a chance, and others that just won’t appeal. But those that don’t appeal will be over before you know it, so no big deal, right?

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The author is from the United Kingdom and thus uses spelling conventions and some expressions unique to their flavor (or flavour would be more accurate) of English.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 10-11,000 words

Monday, February 8, 2021

Reprise Review: Flaps Down: The Reluctant Hero by Jackie Weger

 


Genre: Romance

Description:

“Parnell Stillman, ace pilot, is man to the bone in a lackadaisical kind of way. He has the ability to fly through anything except solid mountain. He lives alone because people are not to be trusted—especially women... Mischance forces his plane down in a frozen wilderness. He can survive, but his live cargo is another matter--an annoying social worker and five orphans--the most irksome freight he’s ever hauled in his life.

Rebecca Hollis is distraught. The orphans have missed their chance for parents... She determines to force the obnoxious, disagreeable, self-centered pilot to do what is necessary to insure the survival and rescue of the orphans by Christmas Eve… Even if it means making the noble gesture of keeping her mouth shut—or other womanly things... But the pilot isn’t having it... He’d rather dance with a grizzly or wrestle a puma than give his heart over to a sly, conniving, wily do-gooder. He has no intention of playing the hero...”

Author:

Jackie Weger “…began writing romance novels in the 1980's while living in a small farming town in Texas and is an award-winning contemporary romance writer. She published sixteen novels with Harlequin Books and is now bringing her five-star favorites to the e-book community.”

To learn more about Ms. Weger visit her blog and/or her Facebook page, she loves to chat with readers.

Appraisal:

Parnell is pretty much a typical man who has been burned by a bad relationship and hard times, but he does have a unique history that has caused him to build extra-strong walls around his heart. He is bitter and shares that bitterness at inappropriate times. Rebecca has built her own walls, but her intuitive nature helps her realize and come to terms with her misgivings and misconceptions way before Parnell sees the light.

I could see that without having been put in these extreme circumstances these two probably would have never been able to find true happiness. Their struggle to survive in the snow covered wilderness and keep the kids safe was realistic. I especially loved the relationships between the children. They were a diverse group of unfortunate orphans who had learned to depend on and help one another rather than rely on unknown adults who had so often let them down. Parnell was unknown to them and he had to earn their and Rebecca's trust. The kids were honest and outspoken with their realistic view of the world.   

Ms. Weger's writing style is honest and down-to-earth. Her characters are well developed, realistic, and draw you in quickly. As disagreeable as Parnell was I still rooted for him despite all of his bluster and scornfulness. I could tell it was going to take a strong-willed woman to temper him, I wasn't sure Rebecca was that woman or not for most of the story. She had her own insecurities and issues to deal with and work through. Although she proved to be just as hard-headed as Parnell, she eventually learned when to drop her defenses. The dance these two shared on their journey was captivating and the plot was well paced. Even though this story takes place around Christmas, it could be enjoyed year round. I think this is my favorite book of Ms. Weger's so far.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Flaps Down: The Reluctant Hero has some adult situations that are tastefully handled and I enjoyed them.

Added for Reprise Review: Flaps Down: The Reluctant Hero by Jackie Weger was a nominee in the Romance category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran December 16, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

I did find a small amount of editing errors but not enough to deter my enjoyment of this book.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Friday, February 5, 2021

Review: Meet You Under the Stars (Morgan's Grove Book 2) by Traci Borum

 


Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance

Description:

“Chaynie Mayfield is the absolute last person who should be heading up the Morgan’s Grove library Valentine’s event. Ever since her boyfriend dumped her last year—on Valentine’s Day—she’s had a hard time believing in love.

When Greg Peterson, handsome architect and former schoolmate, is commissioned to oversee the library’s renovations, Chaynie’s spirits are instantly lifted. Greg helps her brainstorm, and they create an ‘Under the Stars’ theme that promises to deliver a magical night for the entire town.

The longer Chaynie and Greg work together on the romantic project, the deeper their attraction grows. But when her dream job comes calling, Chaynie must decide whether her future aspirations are worth the price of leaving a town, a family, a library she adores, and a love she’s not sure she can live without.”

Author:

“Traci Borum is a writing teacher and native Texan. She's also an avid reader of women's fiction, most especially Rosamunde Pilcher novels. Since the age of 12, she's written poetry, short stories, magazine articles, and novels.

Traci also adores all things British and is completely addicted to Masterpiece Theater---must be all those dreamy accents! Aside from having big dreams of getting a book published, it's the little things that make her the happiest: deep talks with friends, a strong cup of hot chocolate, a hearty game of fetch with her Corgi, and puffy white Texas clouds always reminding her to ‘look up, slow down, enjoy your life.’"

Visit Traci's official website or feel free to follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Chaynie Mayfield is at a crossroad in her life. She moved back home to Morgan’s Grove after her father’s death to help her mom. She got a job at the local library, which is near and dear to her heart, to work as an assistant to the head librarian. It’s been a year and a half now and she wants to spread her wings and apply for her dream job as a head librarian.  When the library receives a large endowment for much needed renovations, Greg Peterson is commissioned to oversee the projects. Greg is an architect who has moved his business to his hometown of Morgan’s Grove. He is also a former schoolmate of Chaynie’s.

Chaynie has been tasked with creating a Valentine’s Day event sponsored by the library. Greg helps Chaynie brainstorm ideas for the event. He also learns that the children’s alcove is one of Chaynie’s favorite places in the library. Greg strives to turn the alcove into a storybook setting for her, and the kids of course.

Meet You Under the Stars is told from Chaynie’s POV so we get to see her insecurities. The characters are well developed, diverse, believable, and enjoyable. The plot is charming, cozy, but moves slow, similarly like the township of Morgan’s Grove. Ultimately Meet You Under The Stars is more about relationships than a romantic genre story, which is misleading. There are some interesting twists that help the story along including a couple surprising game changers at the end. So, I am torn. I would rate this book a four-stars as a Women’s Fiction. However, I would rate this book a three-star as a Romance, or perhaps two-stars as there is no male perspective. Romances generally have both perspectives and at least a slow burning emotion. Both the book’s classification on Amazon and the impression given by the book’s description indicate the reader can expect a book in the romance genre, but it doesn’t deliver on that promise.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Meet You Under the Stars is book 2 in Ms. Borum’s Morgan's Grove series. Each book is a standalone novel.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Review: Gunslinger by DV Berkom

 


Genre: Historical/Western

Description:

“After losing her family to renegade outlaws, Claire Whitcomb leaves Leadville, Colorado, headed for Tombstone. Armed with a Peacemaker, a rifle, and a letter of introduction to Wyatt Earp, Claire seeks a new life and new career in the Town Too Tough To Die.”

Author:

“DV Berkom is the USA Today bestselling author of action-packed, riveting adventure and crime thrillers. Known for creating resilient, kick-ass female characters and page-turning plots, her love of the genre stems from a lifelong addiction to reading spy novels, action/adventure stories, and thrillers.”

Appraisal:

In the first installment of this series the protagonist, Claire Whitcomb, lost her family, saw that the culprits paid an appropriate price, and as part of that process developed some new skills. The title of this second installment of the series should be a good hint as to what those skills are. In this book Claire meets and befriends a few well-known characters from the old west, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holladay being the biggest names, puts her new skills to use a time or two. I didn’t find the “what’s going to happen” aspect as strong in this volume as the first installment, but enjoyed watching Claire grow into someone to be reckoned with. If you’re a fan of the old west and westerns in general, this is definitely for you.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Book 2 of the series. While I think the book could be read as a standalone, knowing all that led to this point would help get even more from the book.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on an advance copy and I’m unable to gauge the final product in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Monday, February 1, 2021

Reprise Review: One More Body by Josh Stallings

 


Genre: Crime

Description:

Moses McGuire is lost, staying hidden in Mexico with the ghosts of his past. Until he’s approached by Rollens, a detective who claims her niece has been taken and sold into a life of child prostitution. McGuire reluctantly returns home to help. But all is not as it seems and McGuire is drawn into a messy world of crime and desperation.

Author:

Josh Stallings has had many occupations in life – from criminal, to taxi driver to club bouncer. On the creative front he has written and edited prize winning films, some in partnership with leading writers such as Tad Williams. More recently Josh turned to novels. One More Body is his fourth book. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and several pets.

Appraisal:

This is the third installment comprising anti-hero Moses McGuire, after Beautiful, Naked and the Dead and Out There Bad. It opens with McGuire in a bad way, existing in Mexico, riddled with guilt, talking to a ghost and pelting back prescription drugs and alcohol in equal measure.

In effect, the story takes up where Out There Bad finished (although each of the books operate as stand-alones). Once Rollens appears on the scene McGuire slowly begins to take a grip on his life through helping others. He’s a bad guy with a big heart, an excellent character who’s as frail as he’s strong.

The story moves along at a fast pace, flipping between first person (McGuire) and third person (the kidnapped girl, Freedom). As McGuire rises from the depths he’s cast himself into, Freedom sinks down into a grim world of child prostitution, exploitation and murder. It’s here the writing is at its most graphic - Stallings takes no prisoners when he describes scenes of abuse. The pill isn’t sweetened in the slightest.

What is very interesting and incredibly well done is how the writing style reflects McGuire’s mental state. At the outset he’s lost, guilt ridden and off his face on narcotics and the prose matches it. Then he’s drawn back to LA and begins to find a degree of purpose, but his world is still confusing, he’s not sure which way is up. The writing tightens, but still has a vague quality running through it. Then McGuire comes off the drugs and is entirely focused so the style shifts with it – to clipped and direct sentences. It’s clever and very well done.

Here’s an example of the writing:

I fired a second shot into the windshield. The concussion sent a million chunks of glass spilling back. It tore a three-inch hole through the seat before ripping out through the trunk. The safety glass bloodied up the bangers pretty good, but they showed good form, not a wail or a moan.

A thoroughly enjoyable, cracking read of knuckleduster prose.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Plenty of swearing and graphic scenes.

Added for Reprise Review: One More Body by Josh Stallings was a nominee in the Crime Fiction category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran November 27, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Friday, January 29, 2021

Review: Miss Nude Canada's Shoes (And Other Fiascos) - A Memoir (Act II * Yukon) by Jeff Pearson

 


Genre: Memoir/Short Story Collection

Description:

“Sooner or later, everyone comes face to face with a fiasco--even the innocent, angelic types like Miss Nude Canada circa 1986. Generally speaking, fiascos, which thankfully come in many different forms, are events where the caca hits the fan; there's failure, breakdown or catastrophe of some sort and everything just slithers off of the rails in a sickening, sideways fashion. Human idiocy, in all of its glorious manifestations, is often the fiasco's prime catalyst with ego-squashing humiliation its necessary outcome. Fiasco-prone humans with an above-average surplus of caca-splattered fan-blades in their closets have many (sordid) tales to tell. Mr Pearson, the floor is all yours ....

In bars and taverns, on a Reserve, in a motel room, on a mine site. On lakes and rivers, in a canoe, on a raft, in the backcountry, on top of a moose. With homeless hobos in an inner city slum. And the question then begs to be asked: is life just one, long, continuous chain of calamitous fiascos?? (Answer inside).”

Author:

“Jeff Pearson was born in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada in 1963 and attended Carleton and Lakehead Universities where he mostly majored in Maximum Intoxication / Fiasco Production. Then he went vagabond—rambling / exploring / travelling / working—for years … all over Canada and beyond. He kept detailed journals and has been writing down something or other for over thirty years: poetry, short stories, song lyrics, a novel and now a memoir. For the past twenty years he has been manning various fire towers deep in the Canadian wilderness.”

Appraisal:

This is the second part of a three-part memoir trilogy. Just like the first part (and presumably the third part as well) this second part is made up of humorous, non-fiction stories of adventures (or fiascos as the title and description call them) that the author experienced a few years ago. (These experiences happened as long ago as 1989.) If you’re looking for the fiasco involving Miss Nude Canada, you’ll want to start with the first part of the trilogy.

If you read and laughed at the first installment of the trilogy like I did, you’ll find yourself laughing and enjoying your read of this as well. Whereas Part 1 mostly involved things closer to Mr Pearson’s hometown in Ontario and his adventures traveling south through the US and into Mexico, which obviously involved a bit of culture shock and adaptation to cultural differences, this book focuses on adventures and fiascos that happen in The Yukon. This is an area of Canada that has its own set of unique aspects which add to the story. As an extremely rural area, much of it with very few if any people at all, the stories tend to involve a lot of things happening outdoors in more natural settings with many more moose and bear figuring into the stories than with the stories from points south. My favorite was probably the one involving the long, end-of-season solo kayak trip that … well, it turned into a bit of a fiasco, just as advertised.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A small amount of adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words