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 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.

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


Friday, June 18, 2021

Review: Boulder County by Marc Krulewitch


 Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Description:

“Cannabis farmer Buddy Fisher keeps Colorado’s legalization euphoria at arm’s length. Banned from going legit due to prior felonies, he’s happy living off the radar breeding super-potent hybrids, catering to the underground cannabis culture, and watching the sun set over the land his family has farmed for three generations. But keeping a low profile becomes tricky when skyrocketing demand for his bootleg weed catches the attention of an agribusiness giant who will stop at nothing to cash in on the burgeoning marijuana market.”

Author:

Author Marc Kruelwitch and his family had lived in Chicago for generations. He was born there and set his first five novels in the Windy City. For his latest he’s moved the venue to Boulder County, Colorado where he’s lived since 1992.

Appraisal:

It didn’t strike me until I was pondering this book, preparing to write the review, that Buddy, the hero and protagonist of the story would typically be the bad guy in many of the books I read. Certainly in a police procedural or detective mystery, he would be. But even though he’s obviously breaking the law, it’s clear that given the totality of the situation, he’s the good guy and it is only due to a few technicalities that what he’s doing is illegal. Meanwhile we’ve got characters who would be the good guys in a stereotypical story (the maybe a touch too religious sheriff from Kansas, for one) who I disliked … maybe even stronger words belong here … from the start and it went downhill from there. This story kept me guessing, both as to whether some characters were going to turn out to be good guys and how the story was going to shake out in the end. The story took me through a ton of emotions, from amusement to being on the edge of my seat to … well, you’ll have to decide how you feel about the ending yourself.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Reprise Review: An Honorable Man by Donna Fasano

 


Editors Note: It has come to our attention that the Kindle version of this book will be free on Amazon from June 16 to June 21, 2021.

Genre: Sweet Romance/Native American

Description:

“Nothing can make Native American Mat Makwa give up being a New York City police officer… except one little girl—all alone in the world—who needs a father. Returning to his Kolheek reservation to take on the safer job of sheriff of this small, close-knit community, he never expects his heart might be in danger to school teacher Julie Dacey.

Mat's six-year-old daughter Grace is a handful, and Julie finds herself getting to know Mat quite well during some intense parent-teacher meetings, which soon start occurring after hours. Then Mat begins mentoring Julie’s troubled teenaged brother and her heart softens toward this honorable man. Despite being wary of relationships, Julie can’t deny how her soul soars when Mat is near. Is the attraction between the flame-haired beauty and the lawman destined to turn into love?”

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 #1.”

Ms. Fasano has two grown sons and lives with her husband on the eastern seaboard of the United States. To learn more please visit her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

When Mat Makwa, a NYC police officer, gets custody of Grace, a six year-old spitfire who is smart beyond her years, he decides to raise her in his hometown in Vermont. Misty Glen is a small Kolheek reservation where he has lined up a job as Sheriff, and he enrolls Grace in the first grade. As a member of the NYCPD he saw too many fellow police officers lose their life only to see the devastation on the families faces to allow that to happen to him. So he has sworn off relationships, Grace is all he is willing to take on.

On Grace’s first day of school she punches a fellow student. As a result Mat is called in for a parent teacher conference that afternoon. Grace’s teacher is Julie Dacey, a new resident in the area. When Mat and Julie first formally meet, fireworks fly. Both are caught off-guard by their overwhelming feelings, but try to remain professional during the conference. 

Julie Dacey has had a difficult time with abusive men growing up and is leery of new men. She has also carried a guilt for leaving her young brother, Brian, behind when she went to college. After her mother dies, and she had earned her teaching degree, Julie is able to get legal custody of Brian. She moves to the small Kolheek reservation in Misty Glen. She is hired as a first grade teacher at the elementary school there. She hopes that moving Brian to this small community will help tame his rebellious, thirteen year-old, nature.

Watching Mat’s internal struggles with his own convictions is frustrating, aggravating, and at times comical. Julie is intelligent and strong-willed, she also understands Mat’s position. However, Julie doesn’t have to do anything but be near him for his will to stay single to shatter all around him. It’s entertaining to watch their dance and a bit nerve wracking. It’s usually the woman I want to bop on the head and say, ‘Snap out of it!’ I loved the way Julie handled Mat at the end, after all he put her through, she did good.

An Honorable Man is enlightening, heart-warming, and a fun read. Grace was a blast! Ms. Fasano always makes her kids realistic and a joy to read about. We got to meet Dakota and Chay briefly as the story arc widens. I really can’t wait to read Chay’s story! He captured my interest. All we know about Chay is he’s taking a break from life, living alone in an old hunting cabin in the woods. I need me some Chay! But, Dakota’s story is next, I am looking forward to learning more about these Black Bear Brothers!

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

An Honorable Man is book 1 in Ms. Fasano’s, The Black Bear Brothers Series.  Although the books in this series are stand-alone novels, reading the books in order will offer the most enjoyable experience.

Original review was posted October 23, 2019.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing errors.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words


Monday, June 14, 2021

Review: Twilight Walk by Melissa Bowersock


Genre: Mystery/Contemporary Fiction/Paranormal

Description:

“Paranormal investigators Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud have their lives turned upside down by a sudden medical emergency that sidelines Lacey for the foreseeable future. At the same time, however, the LAPD is stymied by what appears to be a serial murderer, and not just the ordinary garden variety. This one leaves teeth marks on the victims’ necks. Is a vampire loose in LA? Sam intends to find out, and must plunge alone into the dark underground of bloodlust culture. Can he track down the evidence by himself, and can recalcitrant Lacey follow doctor’s orders long enough to let her body heal?”

Author:

“Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: biography, contemporary, western, action, romance, fantasy, paranormal and spiritual. She has been both traditionally and independently published and is a regular contributor to the superblog Indies Unlimited. She has a tattoo on the inside of her left wrist that says IMAGINE. In her next life, she plans to be an astronaut. She lives in a small community in southern Utah with her husband and an Airedale terrier. She also writes under the pen name Amber Flame.”

Learn more about Ms. Bowersock and her other books on her website or on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Twilight Walk hits the ground running, not necessarily with the murder mystery. This emergency is more personal and it’s not often we see Sam undone. I love the way Ms. Bowersock always has at least two storylines in each book. There is a family storyline that generally includes Sam’s kids on the weekends and how well Sam, Daniel, and Kenzie have melded into a perfect family unit with Lacey. Then there is usually a paranormal mystery where Sam Firecloud is the Navajo medium who can read the spirit’s emotions and Lacey is the former LAPD detective extraordinaire who dives into research each case to learn why a spirit is bound to the earthly plane. Together they make a crack investigative team.

Believe it or not the reader will find little paranormal mystery in these murder cases that have the LAPD stymied. What they will find is an unnerving, twisted, psychopath, who may be a serial killer. The path to find this killer is a dark and tangled web. Sam must submerge himself in the bloodlust culture hidden in the underbelly of LA alone. Twilight Walk rattled me to my core and kept me glued to the edge of my chair waiting for the other shoe to drop. Give me ghosts any day over this kind of realistic horror. Nice job, Ms. Bowersock.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Twilight Walk is book 31 in Melissa Bowersock’s, A Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery Series.

Format/Typo Issues:

I was a beta reader for this novella so I can’t comment on the final book.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words


Friday, June 11, 2021

Review: Roller Rink Starlight: A Memoir by William Hart

 


Genre: Memoir

Description:

“William Hart’s true coming of age memoir begins when at fourteen he joins an amateur roller racing team comprised of both sexes and loaded with RSROA national champions. A varsity sprinter in track, he soon excels at speed skating.

Insiders know roller rinks are conspiracies to turn singles into couples.

The main storyline follows Hart’s early education in romance—piquant, humorous, harrowing, and laced with major life lessons. The setting: Wichita, Kansas, early 1960s, when the sexual repression of the 50s still prevails, except in rare zones of marked liberation. Adults have their watering holes, teens the rink, where they can experiment with their budding sexualities. Immersed in powerful mood music they glide in pairs through darkness under stars and make out in the bleachers. Falling in love is ridiculously easy, as we see in the adventures of teammates, parents, and certainly the author. Hart fell hard for a gifted racer, his kindred spirit, costar of many of his most indelible memories.”

Author:

“William Hart is a novelist and poet living in Los Angeles. He writes while helping produce the documentaries of PBS filmmaker Jayasri Majumdar, his wife. Hart's work has appeared in several hundred literary journals, commercial magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and fourteen books.”

Appraisal:

This was an enjoyable read. In some instances, it brought back memories for an old guy like me. Yeah, I hung out at the roller rink in my town a bit. I may not have done so as often as William Hart, the author of this memoir, and it was a decade later, but many of the experiences he recounts still felt familiar. Some were different (I was definitely not athletic or involved in organized racing at the rink) but reading about his experiences were still interesting.

In fact, in some ways reading about experiences that were different from my own was more of a positive than any flashback I had. At one point in the book the racing team had gone to a racing competition in another town that was unfamiliar to most of them. The author mentioned that visiting other towns was an education to many of them, saying that there is “something about spending even a day in an unfamiliar town that can open a young mind to life’s possibilities.” This is something I’ve recognized as a positive of travel in general, but it struck me here that when you’re young and inexperienced the place you go doesn’t have to be very far away to feel a lot different. I like reading memoirs for the same basic reason, but instead of putting yourself somewhere different physically, it allows you to put yourself in someone else’s body and mind, seeing the world through their eyes. Both are learning experiences that benefit the reader while also being an enjoyable activity. I’d recommend this book to those of you of a certain age, if you’re interested in going back in time like I did. But for those who are a bit younger than William Hart and myself, it gives you the chance to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a while.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Reprise Review: Wytchfire by Michael Meyerhofer

 


Genre: Epic Fantasy

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.

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.

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.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Wytchfire is book 1 of Michael Meyerhofer’s, The Dragonkin Trilogy. Wytchfire was also a nominee in the Fantasy category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards.

Original review posted July 3, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Sooz

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

Monday, June 7, 2021

Review: A Tracker’s Tale by Karen Avizur

 


Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal

Description:

“Welcome to the strange and perilous world of Katherine Colebrook: FBI special agent, Los Angeles… Trackers Division.

In Katherine’s world, werewolves, vampires, pĂșcas, and other parasapien species – forced for centuries by human fear and prejudice to live at the fringes of society – have finally come out of hiding to demand their rightful place alongside us. Within the FBI’s unit that handles parasapien cases, the Trackers division, Katherine Colebrook is one of the best. Her psychic abilities made her a natural, allowing her to move between the parasapien and human worlds in ways that no other agent could. But Katherine’s calling hasn’t come without struggle and losses along the way.

As a single mother, she must contend with her teenage daughter, Alexandra, who not only shares Katherine’s psychic abilities, but seems determined to follow the same dangerous path as her mother. And so, when Katherine’s latest assignment threatens to bring that danger too close home, she finds herself faced with the toughest challenge of her career: Can she protect her daughter’s life, while battling a ruthless adversary who’ll stop at nothing to destroy her?”

Author:

“Karen Avizur grew up on Long Island, New York and ended up in Orlando, Florida, with stops in Connecticut, West Virginia, and Los Angeles along the way. She's been writing stories since she was twelve years old. In those early days, she discovered it was impossible to keep up with her thoughts by writing longhand, and ended up borrowing a 7-pound laptop from her dad, quickly honing her typing skills.

After graduating film school, Karen moved to Los Angeles, where she worked as a film editor for several years while also pursuing her writing. ‘I was taught that a film editor is really the final-draft screenwriter. It’s true’ she notes. ‘I’d written much of Trackers as separate short stories over the years, but being an editor helped me see how to weave those stories together into novel form.;

Karen now lives in Florida with lazy dog Ginger (her Australian cattledog mix), and still keeps a hand in editing for special clients.”

Appraisal:

Katherine Colebrook is one of the best Tracker agents in the FBI’s unit that handles parasapien cases. She’s trained in all the defensive arts and has psychic abilities. Katherine is a single mother of a sixteen-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who is also psychic and trained in defensive arts and weapons.

The police found Rebecca alone in a diner, rocking to and fro afraid and mumbling.  The doctor admitted her to the mental ward of a children’s hospital. The nurse on duty, a friend of Katherine’s, thinks Rebecca may be psychic, however, she is also a high functioning autistic teenager. Someone is trying to kidnap her. When Katherine learns her older brother was killed trying to protect her, Katherine askes for a quickie adoption from the FBI, so she can protect her.  

It doesn’t take long before the fists and feet start flying, races against the clock ensue, and training a new partner begins. Of course, politics finds its way into the story of Werewolf society, Vampire hierarchy, and Mob bosses. Which all requires Katherine’s special touch. It’s all edge of your seat intensity with surprising twists and turns. It’s no holds barred when Katherine get fired up, her stamina wore me out reading about all the action. All of the story arcs are brought to a close except the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s past and her nightmares. Then in the last chapter two new characters are introduced who are connected to Rebecca. Luckily book 2 of this series is published.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

There are a few F-bombs dropped.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing or formatting issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Friday, June 4, 2021

Review: The Sovereignty File by Elizabeth Smith

 


Genre: Political Thriller

Description:

“It is the summer of 2004, and pristine antebellum homes, once the refuge of wealthy New Orleanians seeking to escape yellow fever, sit proudly along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. But beyond this tranquil setting and the seductive Gulf breeze, there are secrets, never revealed, that still remain a threat.

Following an interview with a U.S. Senator and leading presidential candidate, a young journalist will have cause to wonder if a killer could soon occupy the White House.

While Jonathan Burke attempts to link the Mississippi senator to the secret Sovereignty Commission, an agency whose mission was to destroy the entire civil rights movement within the state, he stumbles upon the unsolved murder of a ten-year-old black girl. When he becomes obsessed with solving this thirty-year-old murder, he is forced to examine his past and the real reasons for this obsession. Soon it becomes clear to Jonathan that this is a place where heat still lingers, hate still simmers, and secrets from the past must never be revealed.”

Author:

“Elizabeth Smith is an artist and writer. Following a career in advertising, she taught middle school and high school. She is the author of seven novels and currently lives in South Carolina with her husband, Don.”

For more, visit her website.

Appraisal:

An intense political thriller that as a starting point uses something that apparently really happened, a “secret Sovereignty Commission” designed to stop the civil rights movement back in the 60s and 70s. Years later, when details starting coming out, it led to some serious criminal charges (up to murder) against some of those involved. This story imagines the story is on the verge of coming out and what some might do to try and prevent it. As I’d hope, it keeps you wondering how it is going to turn out and whether those who appear to be guilty will pay an appropriate price.

In some ways the reader is setup to hope and expect certain things will happen near the end, enough that had they not happened it would have been a disappointment. Given the number of years the person who was the obvious villain had been a bad guy I don’t think it would have been possible or credible for him to suddenly turn out to be a good guy, so if he came out unscathed it would be an issue. Hopefully I haven’t said too much, but will say that how things turn out isn’t going to be exactly as the reader pictured. The ultimate resolution might not be quite where it felt like the story was heading. Yet, in the end, you’ll find the resolution to be satisfying as well as surprising.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Reprise 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 or follow him on Facebook.

Appraisal:

In this seventh 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:    Amazon US        Amazon UK   

FYI:

The Darker Carnival is Book 7 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. Original review posted March 30, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant issues with proofing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words