Friday, October 15, 2021

You Can’t Kiss A Bubble by Karen A. Wyle


 Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Description:

“What can you do with a bubble?

Many children – and adults – find bubbles fascinating, even enchanting. And yet they’re so different from most things we enjoy, lasting only a few moments. This little book, with its lovely and whimsical illustrations, looks at both the charm and the transitory nature of bubbles, and reminds us that we can take joy even in the impermanent.”

Author:

“Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier. She is an appellate attorney, photographer, political junkie, and mother of two daughters.

Wyle's fiction includes various varieties of science fiction, historical romance, and afterlife fantasy -- so far. She has also written one nonfiction resource, explaining American law to authors, law students, and anyone else interested in better understanding the legal landscape.”

Appraisal:

I recruited LBG, my 8-year-old granddaughter, to read this with me and to get her impressions. She had a fun time taking turns reading the story out loud with me and was able to work out the few words that stretched her reading vocabulary. (That there were a few of those was a positive, in my mind.) LBG was amused by the story and thought it was deserving of a high ranking. I’m not sure if she could put into words the lesson that is inherent in the story, but I did get the feeling that she understood that lesson on some level.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 24 Pages

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Reprise Review: Finding Travis by Melissa Bowersock

 


Genre: Western/Historical Fiction/Time Travel

Description:

“Travis Merrill’s life isn’t going according to plan. He’s quit several career paths, his wife has left him, and his only solace is volunteering to portray a cavalry surgeon at historic Fort Verde in Arizona, a place where time seems to stand still. When a weird trick of time actually sends him back to the year 1877, he’s boxed into impersonating the post surgeon for real. Unfortunately, he finds his medical knowledge is no match for the primitive practices of the day, and he’s forced to make life or death decisions, not always successfully. He wonders if he will ever be able to return to his own time, or if he might find a life—and a love—140 years in the past.”

Author:

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic author who writes in a variety of genres: action/adventure, paranormal, biography, fantasy, romance, spiritual and satire. She has been both traditionally and independently published, and is a regular contributor to the superblog Indies Unlimited. For more information, visit her website.”

Appraisal:

Finding Travis is hard to nail down genre-wise. The setting, in both time and place, fits for a Western. But the story isn't what you'd expect (or at least what I would expect) from that genre. It isn't a romance, although there is a romance story line that is a major part of the tale. Is isn't science fiction, but time travel is the premise that sets up the story. The best way to view the book is probably as historical fiction with a twist or two.

One of the things that I like about historical fiction is considering the way the world has changed in the interim. Comparing how the characters react to the situations they encounter to current day norms. Determining what those norms are and trying to conform to them in order to fit in is one of the things our protagonist Travis does. Or at least tries to do. It's tough enough for Travis to have to fake being a surgeon, but working around the differences due to time travel make it that much more difficult. This was an enjoyable kickoff to this new series. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. 

Buy now from:    Kindle US     Kindle UK

FYI:

Original review posted July 20, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars 

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Monday, October 11, 2021

Review: MUNKi by Gareth Southwell

 


Genre: Science Fiction

Description:

The book’s blurb describes a drier book than the one I’ve just read. It says “it is a philosophical exploration of memory, death and identity, and the ambiguous role that technology has come to play in all our lives.” I would say it’s more a romp through technologies current and imminent in a search for what humanity is going to become when it grows up. In order to enjoy this book your knowledge of computing need be no more than an awareness of the current generation of video games. Your knowledge of philosophy can be zilch – everything you need is provided on the page and explained in a interesting and accessible way. Southwell describes the book as being ‘near future fiction’. There is an argument for saying we are already there: certainly it is close enough to our own time that the covid pandemic is still messing with ‘normal’.

Author:

Gareth Southwell is a UK-based doctor of philosophy. He has a lively and playful mind, which he more usually directs towards authoring philosophy books, most aimed at ‘A’ level and undergrad students, as well as tyros and the general reader. He writes The Speculative Book Blog, in which he reviews books with a speculative element on philosophy, psychology, science, technology, history, and politics, as well as fiction with that sort of slant. See more on his website here: https://philosophy.garethsouthwell.com/ This is his first novel. In May of 2021 he released Pale Kings, a novella set in the same Merrywhile universe as MUNKi. Southwell is also the latest reviewer to join BigAl’s Books and Pals.

Appraisal:

Southwell is a real new Renaissance author – he can do it all, from designing his cover and the look of his book, to a professional-level knowledge of artificial intelligence and neural programing, to an understanding of the philosophies which could – and possibly should – drive that sort of computing wallop, to the creation of a clever plot to illustrate where computing is going and what may happen when it gets there. On top of all that he has lightly but seamlessly absorbed the ongoing pandemic into his novel and made a feature of (literally) a bug.

All this makes the book more than usually pleasurable in a holistic sense. For example, I loved the numbers Southwell has created for each of his chapters, which pick up on ‘Snake’ a chapter head in which he describes an apparently simple computer game which turns out to be world-endingly complex: the chapter titles are fun too. I enjoyed his nicely quirky main characters, especially the way he juxtaposes them with the landscapes they inhabit (the action moves from South Wales, through London, to Venice). The whole is well spiced with a philosophical explanation of Southwell’s new world order, told with an insouciant wit, which even I (a bear of small brain) could follow and understand the jokes! To quote from the opus, the book ‘wear[s] its learning at a jaunty angle’. It would make a great movie.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Don’t get bogged down in the occasional overly complex, snakey, sentence. They can suck you in. Just move on. All will be well.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Judi Moore

Approximate word count: 90-100,000 words

Friday, October 8, 2021

Review: The Wrong Side of Murder by Jeff Buick


 

Genre: Suspense/Police Procedural

Description:

“Prom night and Darina was having a great time – until someone killed her and stuffed her body in a wall.

Now, twenty years later, Boston homicide detective Aislinn Byrne is staring at her friend’s dehydrated body, draped over a chunk of broken drywall. For two decades Aislinn wondered what happened to Darina – how and why she disappeared without a trace. Aislinn works the case hard, but it’s a convoluted path to the truth. Darina’s father, Alexi, was running organized crime rackets and was murdered six months before she went missing. The obvious question boils up to the surface – are the two murders connected – and if so, how?

Curtis Westcott, head of Boston Homicide, reopens Alexi’s unsolved murder and that puts him head-to-head with a trifecta of powerful gangsters. It’s a wall of silence, but Westcott gradually begins to peel back the layers. As he and Aislinn share information and both investigations move ahead, one thing becomes clear – the killer is still out there and watching their every move.”

Author:

A resident of Calgary, my favorite city in Alberta, Jeff Buck writes mysteries, thrillers, and crime fiction. The previous installment of the Curtis Westcott Crime Series won an award from the International Thriller Writers in the Best Original Ebook category in early 2021.

Appraisal:

The first chapter of this book chronicled Boston police detective Aislinn Byrnne’s visit to a crime scene. Remodeling in an office building uncovered a dehydrated body stashed inside the wall. When Aislinn gets a good look at the body she recognizes it is Darina, a friend of hers who disappeared twenty years earlier on the night of their senior prom. That first chapter grabbed my attention and I had little doubt this was going to be an intense, interesting read. It turned out even better than I expected.

I’ll try to be vague so as to not spoil the story for anyone, but once Aislinn’s boss is convinced that her relationship with the victim isn’t going to be an issue, she starts digging. As you might expect, things hit close to home with her reliving prom night over and over, evaluating everything that happened prior to Darina’s disappearance, questioning their group of friends, and trying to figure out what happened. Her dad and a couple of his friends who are retired police officers help Aislinn in understanding some of the things going on in the city twenty years ago that a high school girl wouldn’t have been attuned to. In the end, what she uncovers isn’t at all what I’d have guessed at the start of the book, but the road getting there was an intense story that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A small amount of adult language.

Although the second book in a series, reading of the first in the series isn’t needed in order to

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Reprise Review: Turtle’s Weir by Lynne Cantwell

 


Genre: Urban Fantasy/World Mythology

Description:

 “FOCUS. Webb Curtis has a number of urgent projects on his plate. He’s supposed to be studying mediation techniques so he can help his mother negotiate a new peace agreement among the gods. He’s also supposed to be tracking down the goddess responsible for his mother’s illness – and to do that, he needs to find a new way into the gods’ realm, as the Norse Trickster Loki has locked it down while He nudges His fellow gods and goddesses toward the ultimate destruction of the Earth.

But Webb isn’t doing any of that. And he can’t remember why.

What he needs is a whack upside the head…”

Author:

“Lynne Cantwell is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited 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 currently lives near Washington, DC.”

“Ms. Cantwell writes mostly urban fantasy and paranormal romance, with a dash of magical realism when she’s feeling serious.”

Her Pipe Woman Chronicles Universe now includes a baker’s dozen: Five volumes in her first The Pipe Woman Chronicles, three volumes in The Land, Sea, Sky series, four volumes in her Pipe Woman’s Legacy series, with the thirteenth being A Billion Gods and Goddesses: The Mythology Behind the Pipe Woman Chronicles. She has written other fiction and non-fiction books as well.

You can connect with Ms. Cantwell at her website.

Appraisal:

This is purportedly the last book in the Pipe Woman’s Legacy series and takes up shortly after the end of Spider’s Lifeline. Ms. Cantwell expertly weaves in several pertinent elements from the whole Pipe Woman Chronicles series into this final addition. Distraction as well as the shifting of powers seem to be a major theme.

This book was a roller-coaster ride of action and heartfelt emotions. The path Ms. Cantwell took us on was well envisioned, deliberate, and developed. Several principles of the original agreement between the Gods, reached thirty-eight years ago, have been brought forward for debate to ensure Ragnarok be diverted. There are signs that Ragnarok has already begun in the Gods realm. It has been placed on Webb's shoulders to intervene. Can he avert this catastrophe before events spill over to our earthly realm?

Enkou, Hilary’s little ninja turtle, takes on a larger role in this story, helping deflect the darkness he is able to see. I really enjoyed him; Enkou is wise and clever. He says very little so when he does speak you need to listen to every word he says. I think my favorite character in this book was Roman. Ms. Cantwell outdid herself developing him. He was full of surprises, but there was still a mysterious air about him. Of course, no one will ever outshine Webb as far as I am concerned. His growth in this story was legendary.

I hate to see this series end but found the ending fitting and closed off well, sort of... as Ms. Cantwell leaves us with a couple of surprises. One made me almost laugh-out-loud with glee! Well done, ma’am. The other left my mouth agape! Honestly, how can this series end with that sort of information? I was left with so many mixed emotions. Anger at the bomb dropped on us with the knowledge that this was the end of the series, but a smile on my face and in my heart at the same time because of that same bomb. I can highly recommend this book as well as the whole series.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Turtle’s Weir is the fourth book in the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. While this book could possibly be read as a stand-alone, you really shouldn’t miss any of this fantastic series.

For those sensitive to the F-bomb, beware there are a few.

Original review posted July 8, 2016.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Monday, October 4, 2021

Review: Dark Ride Deception by Mark S. Bacon

 


Genre: Thriller/Women Sleuths

Description:

“Is Tom Wyrick Dead? The computer genius is missing. So are his priceless tech secrets. Time for Lyle to go undercover again.

Tom Wryick’s mind-bending technology will rocket Nostalgia City theme park decades ahead of the competition. But the computer genius is missing. So are his secrets. Is he dead? On the run? His billion-dollar, breathtaking discovery is the Perception Deception Effect.

An FBI agent theorizes the People’s Republic of China is responsible for the disappearance. The Nostalgia City CEO, however, is convinced a rival theme park is behind the theft. He drafts ex-cop turned theme park cab driver Lyle Deming to fly to Florida to find the missing computer scientist and recover his secrets.

Does this have anything to do with the severed human finger Lyle finds in his cab?

Back in Nostalgia City, park executive, 6’ 2” Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star, is persuaded to investigate the death of an actor starring in a Vietnam-era crime movie being filmed at the Arizona park. Nostalgia City is a meticulous re-creation of a 1970s small town.

Shrugging off jet lag, anxiety, and oppressive Florida humidity, Lyle goes undercover using a parade of false identities to snoop behind the scenes at another theme park’s engineering and computer offices. He’s forced to jump from one covert scheme to another as his identity is exposed, his safety jeopardized.

In the meantime, Kate confronts a mentally unstable actor—fresh out of rehab. But she may be forced to give up the murder case—Lyle needs help.

Kate and Lyle have little time to explore their nascent romantic relationship as both their investigations turn deadly, threatening them and the future of Nostalgia City.”

Author:

“Mark S. Bacon began his career as a Southern California newspaper police reporter, one of his crime stories becoming key evidence in a murder case that spanned decades.

After working for two newspapers, he moved to advertising and marketing when he became a copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park down the road from Disneyland. Experience working at Knott’s formed part of the inspiration for his creation of the Nostalgia City theme park”

Appraisal:

The place most of this story takes place, a fictional theme park called Nostalgia City, is almost as much of a unique character as the human characters. The uniqueness of the park and what that adds to the story, even more so given that the park is being used as the set to film a movie at the same time, adds a lot of out-of-the-ordinary places, people, and situations to this story. The story also has multiple people trying to figure out different mysteries that may or may not be related to the main mystery of where Tom Wyrick has gone and how to recover the tech secrets he is assumed to have taken with him. These multiple threads keep things moving along at a fast pace as the reader tries to figure out, along with Lyle, Kate, the sheriff, the FBI, and others, how it all relates.

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: 80-85,000 words

Friday, October 1, 2021

Review: Windmaster Golem by Helen B. Henderson

 


Genre: Epic Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery/Romance

Description:

“Kiansel, sister to the current Oracle of Givneh, is expected to one day assume the mantle and lead the temple’s followers. Her emerging powers force an impossible decision. Turn her back on her family and heritage to study the way of magic or follow the teachings of the oracle.

Banishment to a remote village as healer, a position he despised, fueled Relliq’s desire for revenge. The discovery of a mythical city and an army of clay soldiers provided the means to control all mages--including the one he wanted most—Kiansel.

Brodie, weaponsmith for the School of Mages couldn’t refuse the archmage’s request to act as escort for a healing team fighting a curse upon the land. But how can a man without any magic of his own fight a curse or protect a friend from an invisible stalker.”

Author:

Helen B. Henderson writes about herself, “Although I wrote fiction for myself as long as I can remember, and been a professional writer for many years, pursuing publication for my fiction is a more recent endeavor… My writing crosses genres and types, from fiction to historical documentaries. I'm especially proud of the two romantic fantasy series, the Dragshi Chronicles and the Windmaster novels. Originally conceived as short stories, the characters came to life for me and my readers. I hope they will for you also.”

To learn more please visit Ms. Henderson’s website.

Appraisal:

Kiansel is faced with a difficult decision. Her brother is the Oracle of Givneh and she feels like she is expected to one day assume the mantle and lead the temple’s followers. However, her emerging powers force an impossible decision. Should she stay at the temple or should she follow the magic calling her?

Relliq is a mage of the worst kind, wanting revenge for being banished to a remote village by the archmage and to rule in his place. Relliq is evil, cunning, and determined to defeat the archmage and possess Kiansel.

Brodie, weaponsmith for the School of Mages, has been asked to escort Kiansel, a group of healing mages, and other important guests to the School of Mages. Brodie and Kia feel an instant connection and both keep tamping down their feelings for each other. Brodie was born without magic, but he does have excellent instincts. He also has a magic sword and he knows how to use it.

Ms. Henderson’s prose captivates and paints pictures of the beautiful, and sometimes traitorous, landscapes. All of the main characters are well developed, likeable, and reasonable.  Except Relliq, he was easy to hate. He was guilty of throwing around curses that caused widespread plagues, practicing mind control, abusing animals, and a thousand other misdeeds.

If you enjoy sword and sorcery fantasies you should check out The Windmaster Novels. Windmaster Golem is book 4 in this series.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Windmaster Golem is book 4 in Ms. Henderson’s, The Windmaster Novels.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words