Monday, July 26, 2021

Reprise Review: Adrift in the Sound by Kate Campbell


 Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Description:

Lizette is a gifted abstract painter with severe personality issues—perhaps bi-polar—although I don’t believe this was stated. Pressured to achieve as a child, when her artist mother committed suicide something snapped inside Lizette. Estranged from her father, she drifts into bad company, and makes unwise life-choices. The story follows Lizette as she struggles with mental illness and searches for meaning in her life. Although set in the Seventies, no attachment with that era is required to connect with this story.

Author:

“A novelist, journalist and photographer, Kate Campbell grew up in San Francisco and has lived and worked throughout California and the West. Adrift in the Sound, was a finalist for New York's 2011 Mercer Street Books Literary Prize. Campbell's environmental and political writing appears regularly in newspapers and magazines throughout the U.S. She lives in Sacramento and, in addition to writing fiction and poetry, publishes the Word Garden blog.”

Learn more about her on her blog.

Appraisal:

I read because I love to lose myself in another world and experience life vicariously through someone else’s eyes. Also, as an aspiring writer, I read to learn. For me, reading Adrift in the Sound was tantamount to attending a fiction writing master class.

Tactile scene settings sucked me into a story as multi-layered as one of Lizette’s beautifully described oil paintings. Ms. Campbell colors her scenes with fine details, often transforming the settings into another character to add emotion. For example, after an argument with her father, Lizette turns her back on him and the house and takes the path in the rain toward the small cabin her mother used as her artists’ studio. Lizette perceives the cabin like this: “Two big windows stared into the tangled garden, watching the house through rain-streaked eyes.” Or her view of the car ferry that will take her to Orcas Island in the Puget Sound, where much of the story unfolds: “The wide-bodied boat nudged the dock, bounced against the pylons, settled into its berth like a lumbering beast nestling into a safe burrow.” Or the way the ocean appears to her: “The afternoon sun scattered silver sequins across the water.” I confess I have a ton more highlights on my Kindle; so many I had to stop myself. Unable to choose which to use in the review, I simply chose the first three—they’re all exceptional.

Lizette’s world is populated by a cast of complex, multi-faceted characters. Many are unpleasant. All were real to me. A brutal sexual assault early in the story permanently scars Lizette and scarred this reader along with her. It happened because she takes crazy chances and trusts the wrong people. But don’t see her as a weakling. On a number of occasions she does significant harm to those whom she perceives as a threat. Although, as I watched Lizette become a danger to others, I was never quite sure of her intentions. That’s a measure of how off-balance the author kept me, and how hard I was rooting for Lizette.

Lizette’s affinity for the native Indians who live on Orcas and form her support group provides more wonderful characters whose lifestyle grounds the story in history and in nature. I have no connection with Native Indians or their customs, but I found their lives and beliefs and plain commonsense added to the palette of an already colorful story.

The novel is a deep, slow burn, and not without humor. One particular scene involving a large snake and an unpleasant junkie had me laughing so loud I woke my wife (I read at night). A larger-than-life character--self-described poet, Toulouse--is described in the eyes of Lizette’s friend, Marian thusly: “Toulouse moved off with a flourish, tipping a goodbye from the rim of his foolish hat. Marian watched him go, his self-importance shoved up his ass like a mop handle.”

Complex, troubled, and gifted, Lizette connects with the natural world on such a deep level that she pulled me along until I stood beside her marveling at the natural beauty of an ocean wave, or the fearsome power of the killer whales as they hunt in the Sound, or the subtle simplicity of an old Indian woman dancing in a mask of feathers and bear skin. She broke my heart as we watched a seal taken by a predator, or a pet dog injured. I know, as she does, it’s natural. You can’t interfere, you can’t help—but still, you share the stab of her guilt.

With more “Oh, didn’t see that coming” moments than I had any right to expect, Adrift in The Sound is the best book I’ve read in a long time.

Check it out. You won’t regret it.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some graphic scenes and bad language (used appropriately).

Added for Reprise Review: Adrift in the Sound by Kate Campbell was a nominee in the Contemporary/General Fiction category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran July 24, 2013.

Format/Typo Issues:

No typos to mention.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Friday, July 23, 2021

Reprise Review: Side Effects: What Candidates Don't Tell You by Tomas Payne

 


Genre: Non-Fiction/Politics

Description:

Side-Effects: What Candidates Don’t Tell You takes you behind the scenes on issues of the day and campaign promises. It focuses on consequences, issues, and options. It also challenges myths such as who are the wealthy, and what is the history of depressed wages. The emphasis is on shedding light, exposing myths, examining consequences, and exploring options, not on personalities. Sorry, no dirt on the people, just on their promises.

Side-Effects will answer questions such as:

Will raising income and estate taxes hurt the billionaires and redistribute wealth?

Why healthcare is broken and what options we have.

Why wages are depressed and what we can do about it.

What are the implications of various immigration plans?

Side-Effects cuts through the BS to look at campaign promises on wealth redistribution, taxes, Social Security, healthcare, depressed wages, and many other topics that aims to bring facts to these issues.”

Author:

“Author is a CPA and has an MBA in finance, a BS in Political Science, and over 30 years of experience in business. He is a long time student of business, the ever-entertaining field of economics, and of the political shell game.

Like many of you, he is frustrated by candidates not addressing the real issues or doing so with simplistic sound bites that don't stand up to scrutiny. That's why he dove into campaign promises to see how they fared and found a number of surprises he'd like to share with you.”

Appraisal:

Of all the books I've ever read on contemporary politics, this book has some qualities that I've never seen before. Depending on what you'd prefer to get from a book like this, you could perceive those qualities as positive or negative.

In the early days of the US, political theorist Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called Common Sense and now an author with essentially the same name (maybe Tomas Payne is a pen name?) shows a lot of common sense in exploring the current political environment in the US. Payne explains his thinking clearly and in multiple instances had me questioning my current political stances. If that possibility concerns you, this book isn't for you. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum you'll almost surely find that Payne agrees with you on some things and disagrees on others. If you're willing to have your thoughts and political beliefs challenged, this book will do the trick.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Original review posted June 24, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Review: Be a Nomad Change Your Life by Robin Barrett

 


Genre: Non-Fiction/Travel

Description:

“Do you have a dream? Being a nomad might be the solution that makes it come true.

Don't wait to travel, start that new business, write a novel, or spend time with the people you love. Do it now, by following the easy to understand resources in this book. BANCYL walks you through WHY people – just like you -- choose a nomadic life, HOW to decide if it’s the right life for you, and WHERE you can travel and thrive, step by step.

 

In this inclusive, one-stop resource guide, you’ll find all the tools you need to launch into a successful, safe nomadic life, with:

•Hundreds of helpful links

•Budget, Destination and Planning Worksheets

•Travel Options – from frugal to ritzy

•Safety Tips – from accident safety to bear attacks and everything in between

•Resources to navigate State of Residence, REAL ID, and receiving mail

•Dozens of mobile job resources

•Financial Resources – from Health Insurance Options to banking and saving for retirement

•Easy to understand information on mobile power, water and hygiene

•Discount clubs and free camping resources

•How to travel with pets

•Finding a great mobile social life and support system

•And much, much more.”

Author:

Robin Barrett doesn’t just tell other people how to live the nomadic lifestyle, but she does it herself, traveling the country living in her RV. She has a blog that she sometimes posts to and a Youtube channel that has a steady stream of content for you to check out.

Appraisal:

For various reasons an amazing number of people are living a nomadic lifestyle, traveling and living all or significant portions of the time in their RV, van, or other vehicle. The pandemic and the wild real estate market recently have only increased the number choosing this lifestyle. This book gives a run down on the things to consider, resources that are available, various options for the many decisions you’ll need to make (what kind of RV, where should I stay, what will I do for income, what to do for food, water, phone, internet) and the list of things could go on for a long time. Much of this information could be gathered in other ways, possibly even just by watching the author’s Youtube videos (if you have about a bazillion hours free to do that). I’d even advise checking out some of those videos. But what this book does is gives you the big picture of the things you need to consider, even if it is to look at it and say, “nah, that doesn’t pertain to me.” For example, traveling with a pet may not be something that interests you. The book also points the way to find more information if what’s provided doesn’t go deep enough for your needs. It serves as both a good introduction to the considerations and a reference, for knowing where to go to dig deeper. Definitely a book I’d recommend for anyone considering the lifestyle discussed.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Monday, July 19, 2021

Review: My Dad’s Jokes are Very (Terribly, Awfully, Painfully) Bad! by Jacob Eckeberger


 

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Description:

“A book all about Dad Jokes. But it comes with a challenge for you and your child:

Can you make it through the end of the book without laughing?

At the beginning of the book you're met by a new friend who is warning you about their Dad's very, terribly, awfully, painfully bad jokes. Your friend's Dad jumps into each page with a new joke, while your friend coaches you through them and helps you maintain composure as much as possible. But as the rate of jokes pick up, can you make it to the end without cracking a smile?”

Author:

“Jacob is a youth worker, musician, and a new author living in Minneapolis, MN. He spends his time playing pretend dinosaur/unicorns with his kids and creating music with his wife.”

Appraisal:

When I read this with LBG (the Little Blonde Girl), my eight-year-old granddaughter, I had a hard time resisting changing dad to granddad since she’s definitely familiar with my bad jokes. We both had a great time, laughing at the story, and relating to the main characters (me to the dad, obviously, her to the poor kid who had to listen to the bad jokes). What Dad (or Granddad) wouldn’t love to read this to their unsuspecting kid and have a chance to tell them a long string of “dad jokes” all in a row? I sure did and no matter what she claimed, LBG loved hearing the story too. Even better would be having Dad read the lines in the book delivered by the dad and your favorite victim … I mean child … getting their reading practice in by reading the kid’s part. It’s a win/win situation.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 20 pages

Friday, July 16, 2021

Review: Fatal Infraction by Kevin Chapman

 


Genre: Police Procedural/Thriller

Description:

“Controversial quarterback Jimmy Rydell’s body was found naked – on the Central Park carousel. Who killed him? How did he get there two days after he disappeared? . . . And why was the body frozen? Jimmy’s team just wants to move on, after collecting on the $20 million insurance policy. Jimmy’s teammate – the one who threatened to kill him – swears he wasn’t there. Jimmy’s bodyguard had the night off. Somebody is going down for this if NYPD homicide detectives Mike Stoneman and Jason Dickson can find a theory that explains all the bizarre facts. They just hope the case doesn’t tear the team, and the City, apart first.

Author:

A lawyer specializing in labor and employment law by day, Kevin Chapman describes his real passions as playing tournament poker, rooting for the New York Mets, and writing fiction. For more, visit Mr Chapman’s website.

https://kevingchapman.com

Appraisal:

All police procedurals have certain qualities inherent in the genre. Unless the detectives in question are incompetent the basic story will be the searching for and interpretation of clues to determine who committed the particular crime being chronicled, in this case who killed the New York Jet’s quarterback, Jimmy Rydell. Different twists to the specifics of the crime, the different witnesses and evidence, and the reader trying to figure all this out with the fictional detectives is enough to come up with a solid and entertaining story.

This book throws a few unusual twists thrown into the normal mix. First, we have the team, who typically would want the killer found, but instead appear to care more about the insurance they’re poised to collect and moving on. Then we have an investigator from the insurance company who is allowed to tag along with Detectives Stoneman and Dickson who is hoping to find evidence that will allow him to deny the insurance payout. Last, we get a lot of what I’ll describe as timely issues influencing the case and the result is a story that kept me involved, curious, and on the edge of my seat the whole way.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Although part of a series I didn’t feel as though not having read prior books in the series impacted my enjoyment of this installment. While reading any series in order has some advantages, this book also reads fine as a standalone.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on the ARC (advance reader copy), so I can’t gauge the final product in area.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Review: Daisy Fields by Maki Matsui

 


Genre: Romance/Contemporary/Young Adult/Novella

Description:

“She's twenty-two or thirty-nine. She's from Texas or from Alaska. Her mother left her when she was little... or was she abducted? She's stalked by a loan shark, but she's never taken a loan.

And him? A soft-spoken, SLR-wielding hero, passionate and sincere—yielding, even...except in love.

When David decides to take the wacky, quirky Kalifornia Mooney as his housemate, he doesn’t expect his world to be turned upside down. As their mutual affection grows, so does the inexplicable chasm between the two friends. Kalifornia keeps her life shrouded in mystery, and no matter how much time they spend together, he doesn’t seem to know the first thing about her. Who is she? What is she so afraid of? Is she a refugee, as she claims to be, and if so, what is she running from?”

Author:

“Born and raised in Japan, Maki Matsui has been a lifelong reader and writer, first in Japanese and then in English. Besides being the author of two books—Back to Troy (2020) and Daisy Fields (2020)—she is also a classical singer. She makes her home in the hills of Western Massachusetts and is currently working on her third title.”

To learn more about Ms. Maki's books check out her website, or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

“What is sincerity, what is freedom, what is true love?”

David Nighthart, age twenty-four, is a passionate, soft-spoken photographer who is looking for a housemate. What he gets is a cute, quirky, emotionally damaged female hauling all of her possessions in two large plastic bags and a suitcase knocking at his door that evening. Her name is Kalifornia Mooney, and she claims to write fiction under the name Ambrosius Mooney. Now David is trying to learn how to tell the difference between Kalifornia’s fiction and her truths. Kalifornia guards her secrets profoundly.

After about three months David feels like he’s making headway into Kalifornia’s mysterious ways. Meanwhile, Kalifornia feels her protective walls crumbling. Her fallback is to pack all her stuff and run away. David’s world falls apart. His insecurity about love and relationships takes a wallop deep in his soul. The raw emotion comes off the page as David does a lot of soul searching, trying to figure out how he could have done things differently.

Daisy Fields is a sweet but emotional rollercoaster ride. The secondary characters are realistic and human with faults of their own. This would be a nice story to read on a quiet weekend.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Cozy romance that explores love from many angles.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing errors.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Monday, July 12, 2021

Reprise Review: Two Hearts in Winter by Donna Fasano

 


Genre: Contemporary Romance

Description:

“Loss and betrayal have caused Heather Phillips to give up on love. She’s thrown herself into running The Lonely Loon, her Bed and Breakfast located on the boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland. The 'off season' in this tourist town is usually a time of rest and reflection for her; however, DB Atwell, a famous author, arrives at The Loon for the winter to finish his long-overdue novel. Daniel, too, has faced grief, and tragedy continues to haunt him. Once Heather and Daniel meet, their lives will never be the same.”

Author:

“USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR DONNA FASANO is a three-time winner of the HOLT Medallion, a CataRomance Reviewers Choice Award winner for Best Single Title, a Desert Rose Golden Quill Award finalist, a Golden Heart finalist, and a two-time winner of Best Romance of the Year given by BigAl's Books & Pals Review Blog. Her books have sold 4 million copies worldwide and have been published in two dozen languages. Her novels have made the Kindle Top 100 Paid List numerous times, climbing as high as #5.”

Learn more about Ms. Fasano at her website, In All Directions, and feel free to follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

You can always count on Ms. Fasano to write about a topic that many women struggle with and do it with finesse. Her characters are also always strong but flawed. How she is able to shine a light on these flaws and allow us to follow their journey to completeness or happiness as they gain insight to tackle their problems head on is one of Ms. Fasano’s greatest strengths.

In this second book of Ms. Fasano’s Ocean City Boardwalk series we meet Heather Phillips, the owner and operator of The Lonely Loon Bed and Breakfast. She seems to have her life on track after suffering through a devastating break-up with a fianc√© years ago over a decision she made for her own wellbeing. She’s now happy, prosperous, and has good friends she can count on. Her life would be almost perfect if it wasn’t for this cranky author, DB Atwell, who has rented the entire Bed and Breakfast for the whole winter so he can have peace and quiet to finish his next best seller. Heather has been walking on egg shells for over a month now and the quiet is driving her nuts. Heather is a social person who loves getting to know her guests, which is one reason her B&B is such a success, and it is Christmas Eve.

It turns out Daniel is dealing with more than his next novel and he is hiding from the paparazzi. I love the way Ms. Fasano is able to unfold her characters through realistic dialogue, it gives the reader a genuine sense of who they are. Daniel’s story is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching as he tries to navigate international politics while trying keep his sanity. When Heather begins to learn his story a compassion is awakened in her that she thought she had safely buried and she is forced to confront her past decision in a way she never imagined. I was able to feel her emotional turmoil as if it was my own.

The plot moves at a steady pace, but never too slowly, because there is a lot going on. We also get to revisit and learn more about people and events from her earlier works in this series. While it is not necessary to have read the first book of this series, Following His Heart or the related novella, An Almost Perfect Christmas to enjoy these parts of this story, I have to say that you are missing out on a couple of gems if you haven’t read them. Now I am anxious to learn more about Cathy!

I found Two Hearts in Winter a unique, captivating, emotional tale that will keep you thoroughly enthralled until the very end. Don’t miss this one, it will make your heart smile.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Two Hearts in Winter is Book 2 in the Ocean City Boardwalk series. This book can be read as a standalone story, as is true with other series books by Ms. Fasano.

Original review posted April 15, 2016

Format/Typo Issues:

I found exceptional proofing and editing.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Review: 33 Minutes by John Charles

 


Genre: Thriller/Mystery/LGBTQ

Description:

“It only took 33 Minutes for them to die

Three dead, two in critical, but why?  One fact in common - all had purchased their morning coffee from the same place.  Were they the intended victims, were their deaths a cover to ruin the transgendered owner of The Coffee Stop, or were their deaths in vain?

Routine didn't exist for Senior FBI Agent Asher Radman.  He was highly respected and had proven himself with hard unsolvable cases.  To Asher, his job was his life.  Everything else slipped into the background as he worked to solve the impossible cases he was assigned

Despite intensive interviewing of coworkers who knew the victims, Asher was at a loss.  Who was the intended victim?  Was this the start of a serial killing spree?  Was there another reason why the killer poisoned only the regular coffee in The Coffee Stop?  And how did the killer get the poison into the pot of coffee?

To complicate matters, Kyle, his long-term lover had professed his undying love that very morning.  His emotions were running high, but his love for Kyle would have to be put into the container where he held all his personal passions while working a case.  There would be time for him to open that box.  It just wasn't now.”

Author:

John Charles has a bunch of books available, some romance, some mystery, and all appear to have gay protagonists. You can find out more including a list of all his books by visiting his website.

Appraisal:

33 Minutes is a fairly short, but still satisfying and entertaining read. The main story, the case that Asher, our protagonist who is an FBI agent is trying to solve, is interesting as the reader tries to put together the pieces. Kyle, Asher’s long-time boyfriend decides he’s ready to take their relationship to the next level which makes Asher happy, but as with all change also adds a little stress to life. This is a series, so those who find they like the character of Asher will have more opportunities to read about him. In fact, at this point it looks like the second book is available.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Definitely some language and adult situations. If you’re homophobic, this wouldn’t be the book for you either.

This is the first book in a series.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on a pre-release ARC (advance reader copy) and I can’t gauge the final product in this area.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Monday, July 5, 2021

Reprise Review: What Happened to Winn Bailey by Edward Gold

 


Genre: Short story/Science Fiction/Mystery

Description:

What Happened to Winn Bailey is a story about a man who wakes up in a strange place with no recollection of how he got there... and he's not alone...

Author:

“Edward Gold is a writer of science fiction and fantasy and children's books. He has won contests for his short stories and has published several poems. He is the Organizer of a local writer's group with around 2,000 members. He has also produced, designed, and edited newsletters for several agencies and literary magazines.”

Appraisal:

Set firmly in the sci-fi realm, this is a short story mystery. On the first page, Mr. Bailey wakes up in a very strange environment. I found the descriptions of his room intriguing and compelling. As the scene changes, the mystery deepens and develops and kept the pages turning.

Often in a short story, I find myself cheated by an ending that either doesn’t explain enough or is too trite to believe. But in this instance, the finale was both satisfying and thought provoking, although I had to wait until the last page to find out what was truly going on—which is as it should be.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Original review posted April 20, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 5,000 words

Friday, July 2, 2021

Review: Camper Girl by Glenn Erick Miller


 Genre: YA/Coming of Age

Description:

“A person's path through life is never clearly marked...Eighteen-year old Shannon Burke is stuck. Her friends are heading off to college, her job is a complete dead-end, and her mother's just made her part owner of the failing family business. The only bright spot is her upcoming birthday and a visit from her eccentric Aunt Rebecca. But before Shannon can blow out her candles, she receives devastating news: Rebecca is dead. When she learns that her aunt has gifted her a beat-up camper, Shannon decides to sell it for cold, hard cash. Then she loses her job and finds a mysterious map in the glove box, and in a moment of desperation, she jumps behind the wheel and hits the road. One map leads to another, and Shannon journeys deep into New York's Adirondack Mountains where she faces her greatest fears and navigates a new reality that is as unpredictable as the wilderness itself. During her scavenger hunt of self-discovery, Shannon uncovers a stunning family secret, experiences the healing power of nature, and learns that a person's path through life is never clearly marked.”

Author:

A long-time educator, award-winning author Glenn Erick Miller divides his time between the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and Southwest, Florida. In addition to Camper Girl, Miller is the author of a children’s picture book, Red’s First Snow.

Appraisal:

Those who study such things will tell you that getting out there and seeing the world or even just different parts of your country, city, state or whatever will expand your horizons in many different ways. Many non-fiction books focusing on travel make the same case, but I don’t think I’ve read a book of fiction, at least not until this one, where that message seemed to be such a big part of the book. Yes, this book is fiction and the trip (a bit of a scavenger hunt arranged by protagonist Shannon’s now deceased Aunt Rebecca) isn’t real, but she definitely learns from it. Some of the things she’s learns are just what I’d expect a real person to learn from actual travel. Things like expanding your view of the world and those in it, while also driving home that we’re not as different as we sometimes let ourselves think. Or experiencing the beauty that is out there to be found, often just by getting off the beaten track a bit. But Shannon also finds out a lot about herself, her Aunt Rebecca, and her parents which has her reevaluating a lot of things about her life and her future. Having just graduated from high school Shannon is at a point that many young adults are evaluating their life, their future, and where they want to go from here. Camper Girl is a great story of someone at one of life’s crossroads, figuring things out, and taking the reader along on the adventure.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

This review is based on an ARC (advance reader copy) and thus I can’t gauge the final product in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words



Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Review: Kradak the Champion by Shawn Inmon


 Genre: Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery/Humorous/Adventure

Description:

“They call him Kradak, but his friends call him Steve.

He's big and strong - an actor who plays a hero named Kradak in a series of B-movies.

When Rista and Grint come through the portal from Arkana, they don't understand what a movie is. They think Steve truly is Kradak the Champion.

They kidnap him and take him back to Arkana to help them save their world. Once they discover the truth, it is too late. The portal is closed. Steve needs to become a hero. The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance.

Rista of the Blade is a strong woman whose beauty is only surpassed by her skill in battle.

Grint is a shapeshifting goblin with a tendency toward being sarcastic.

Do they make the perfect team? Or will the bickering be their undoing?

Mythology comes alive in Arkana, where Cyclops, Rock Titans, Trolls, and magic swords really exist.”

Author:

“Shawn hails from Mossyrock, Washington--the setting for his first two books, Feels Like the First Time, and Both Sides Now.”

Shawn says he “learned everything he knows by having 400 different jobs, give or take a few… He is married to his high school sweetheart, Dawn. No one is sure why she puts up with him, as she once suffered a serious eye sprain when she rolled her eyes once too often at one of his ‘jokes.’"

Feel free to follow Shawn Inmon on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Steve Montross, the actor who plays a hero named Kradak in a series of B-movies, knows his career is taking a slow nosedive. After the premiere of his latest movie in a multiplex on the outskirts on Los Angeles, he meets a couple female fans. One a petite buxom blonde named Grint. The other was tall, athletic, elegant, and named Rista. Steve feels lucky and invites them to his condo for drinks. The women stealthily add a knockout powder to Steve’s drink and haul him off to the portal to take Kradak back to their home planet, Arkana, because they need a hero to stop the darkness from devouring their planet. They actually believe Steve is the real hero Kradak, they don’t understand that Kradak is a role Steve plays on screen. All the heroic feats and adventures are make-believe. When Steve awakens he insists this is all a huge practical joke being pulled on him, until the adventure turns deadly.

Rista decides they will have to turn Kradak into the hero they need him to be to save Arkana from the encroaching darkness. The characters which inhabit Arkana are diverse, some are human like with differing talents, and some without. Then there is Grint, he is the shapeshifting goblin who was the buxom blonde who urged Steve to invite them back to his condo back home on earth.

Their trek is slow since they are traveling by foot, and there are twists that send the small group in a different direction, often for a good cause. Other times their path led them into mortifying situations. At long last they are finally in the town to meet the guide who will take them up to the monastery that keeps Lumina, the magic sword Kradak needs to battle the darkness. A huge wrench is thrown in the mix. Steve is angry and confused, and now he is wondering if he is even on the right side of this fight or not.

Kradak the Champion is the first book in this series and the foundation has been set up for the real quest to begin.  To find and stop Mikol who created this vast darkness. I felt like this book came to a satisfying conclusion.  

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Kradak the Champion is book 1 in Shawn Inmon’s, An Arkana Sword and Sorcery Adventure.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words



Monday, June 28, 2021

Reprise Review: Murphy’s Luck by Benjamin Laskin

 


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.

http://www.benjaminlaskin.com/

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 fianc√©, 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.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A small amount of adult language, hardly worth mentioning. Original review posted March 25, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found this well edited.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words


Friday, June 25, 2021

Review: Point Roberts by Alexander Rigby



Genre: Thriller

Description:

“On a peculiar peninsula in Washington State, the small town of Point Roberts exists in the shadow of the fifteen people who were murdered here. Surrounded by water and a giant wall that spans its border with Canada, Point Roberts has been cut off from the rest of the world every February for the past twenty-seven years in an attempt to stop a brutal serial killer from striking again. Because the murders took place exclusively during February three years in a row, closing down the town seemed like the only way to stop the slayings. And so far . . . it has worked.

Except the decades-old cold case remains unsolved, and the residents of Point Roberts are beginning to question if there’s an ulterior motive behind the mayor’s enforced lockdowns. After a brazen seventeen-year-old orphan named Liza moves to town, a new February begins. At first, she knows nothing of the murders, but that quickly changes when she finds a mysterious book titled The Fifteen—a book that shares shocking details on the killings.

Determined to discover the identity of the Point Roberts Slayer, Liza teams up with four other misfits who all hold secrets and have personal connections to the victims. These five strangers will have to work together to uncover the truth, if only they can stay out of the murderer’s destructive path so they don’t become victims themselves.”

Author:

“Alexander Rigby was born and raised in a small rural town in Northwest Pennsylvania. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington, with his dog, Copper Atticus, and works in book publishing. An avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking in the wilderness, Alexander is on a mission to visit every national park in the United States.”

For more, visit his website.

Appraisal:

Unlike some place names, New York, London, and Paris for example, I’d guess the town name of Point Roberts isn’t one that an average person is immediately going to recognize. As a bit of a map and travel geek I immediately recognized the town as a geographical oddity. It’s what is called a pene-enclave by geographers. This is a piece of land that is part of one country, in this case the US, but in order to be entered by land from elsewhere in the country requires leaving the country. In this case getting to Point Roberts from elsewhere in the US and the state of Washington by car requires crossing into British Columbia, Canada and then looping back into the US and Point Roberts. A pene-enclave, unlike an enclave, could be entered other ways, in this case a boat or ferry across Puget Sound from Seattle or other points in northwest Washington or a plan or helicopter could be used without leaving the waters or airspace of the US to reach Point Roberts.

The author took the basics of Point Roberts actual existence, gave it a mayor (not reality, but easy enough to believe), and then had that mayor take some pretty wild actions based on a series of murders that happened during February, three years in a row. I’ve got to admit that my ability to suspend disbelief was stretched to the limit with much of the premise of this story, but I was curious enough to see where the story went that I forced myself to play along in my mind. I liked and was pulling for Liza and her cohorts to figure things out, there were a few twists in how things progressed that kept me guessing and changing my mind as to where things were going, and I ultimately found the end satisfying, even if it wasn’t quite what I pictured until the story got there. Last, my desire as a travel geek to some day visit the geographical anomaly of Point Roberts survived and grew stronger.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on an ARC (advance readers copy) and I can’t judge the final version.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 115-120,000 words

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Reprise Review: Spider's Lifeline by Lynne Cantwell



Genre: Urban Fantasy/World Mythology/Native American

Description:

“Webb Curtis lives in anticipation. His relatives do amazing things as a matter of course. His mother is Naomi Curtis, who facilitated the Gods’ power-sharing agreement that led to Their return to Earth. Older sister Sage saved the Earth by kicking the gods into action on climate change.

And Webb? Knitting is his superpower. He also knows the future, but only when he’s not directly involved. Now thirty-five and with a baby on the way, he is trying to find his place in the world. But his task will be complicated by a smoky interloper, an Icelandic princess, a tiny golden spider -- and Ragnarok, a.k.a. the end of the world. Not even Webb himself could have anticipated this...”

Author:

“Lynne Cantwell is a contributing author at IndiesUnlimited where she shares her knowledge about Indie publishing and promotion. She has a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University and is a former broadcast journalist who has written for CNN and Mutual/NBC Radio News, among other places. Ms. Cantwell recently retired and moved to New Mexico.

Ms. Cantwell is the author of The Pipe Woman Chronicles, which includes five books, The Land, Sea, Sky series, which includes three books, Spider’s Lifeline is the third volume in the Pipe Woman's Legacy books. Cantwell also has other works of fiction and non-fiction alike.”

You can learn more about Ms. Cantwell’s other books at her website.

Appraisal:

Spider's Lifeline is the third volume in the Pipe Woman's Legacy series and begins several years after the ending of Firebird’s Snare. At first I was a little disappointed to learn that Webb was now thirty-five years old. I suppose I wanted to watch him grow up. This book, however, has moved beyond a coming of age tale, instead dealing mainly with Norse mythology, concerning Ragnarok "Fate of the Gods," and Native American legends.

Webb does an excellent job setting up this story as well as filling in any background information we need to know. The story was mainly told from his first-person point-of-view with a few occasional point-of-view shifts to Sage, whose current mission intertwines with Webb’s nightmares. Several players are brought back into the mix to complicate and or help in the situation at hand. There are also a couple of new players woven in to make things even more interesting. One character has pleasantly surprised me and I eagerly wait to hear more about Antonia’s and Brock’s youngest son, Roman. He may well turn out to be an unsuspected ally. The other is the hereditary princess of Iceland, Ingrid Ingunnardottir, who seems to be causing disruptions on cosmic levels. Ms. Cantwell has indeed woven a tangled web.

I suspected as the story branched off into related story arcs—or strands of a web, if you don’t mind me saying—that there was no way to bring this book to a satisfying ending with Ragnarok looming. This story alludes to a disagreement between the Gods on a cosmic level that is starting to spill over into the mortal realm and might bring forth the end of the world. On the home front, society is breaking down and Sage is, yet again, conflicted about the role the Gods have chosen for her. This is also causing tension between Naomi and Sage as well.

One of the aspects I liked about Ms. Cantwell’s storytelling, which shines in this series, is the seeming role reversal of Sage and Webb. Sage’s patron, being the Phoenix, is outwardly more physically protective and aggressive. While Webb, being Heyoka—the sacred clown in the Lakota tradition—tends to be more introspective and creative. I love the unassuming air he exudes throughout this book. Despite the critical importance of this story to the series, Webb’s voice is light and easy to read. He is my favorite character of all and I loved getting to know him better.

If you are a reader who has aversions to cliff-hangers you may wish to wait for the next book to be released before reading this one. I could see it coming as there were many strands to this tangled web that needed resolving. I felt like I knew this author well enough that she wouldn’t let the story suffer by closing things up too quickly. So for that I was thankful. Now, I can’t wait for the next addition to this series. Hurry hard, Ms. Cantwell.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Spider's Lifeline is Book 3 of the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. While this book could be read as a stand-alone, because Ms. Cantwell does an excellent job filling the reader in on pertinent info, do yourself a favor and read book 1, Dragon’s Web, and book 2, Firebird's Snare.

I need to add a warning here, there were several F-bombs dropped and sexual abuse, including a mildly graphic rape, for those who have sensitivity in these areas.

Original review posted April 22, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found excellent formatting and editing.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count:  55-60,000 words