Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Review: Still No Kids & Still OK: A Childfree Humor Book by Ellen Metter


 Genre: Humor

Description:

“There’s less pressure these days to make lots of dimply babies. But what about the indecision that would-be parents experience as they consider the Baby, Yes or Baby, No choices? Or the subtle societal nagging that says having zero children leads to a lonely life with only Netflix and grizzled old guys with no teeth as your friends?

Now that she’s nearly old enough to get ‘Save the Date!’ invites from the Grim Reaper, Ellen Metter is ready to share a light-hearted, illustrated look at an intentionally childfree life.

Still No Kids & Still Ok is for everyone. The author loves it when people have children since we need kids who grow up to create hilarious Netflix shows. But since parenting can be like flying a Boeing jumbo jet with squirrels in your hair, it’s best when the desire for children is strong. Like Superman strong.

And for those who hesitate to procreate? The author gets it! The only doll she loved as a kid was Barbie since that doll seemed old enough to have sex. (Protected, of course.) Still No Kids & Still Ok shares illustrated evidence that a long and childfree life is more than Ok.”

Author:

“Metter is the author of Still No Kids & Still OK: A Childfree Humor book and the sci-fi novel Transference. She's tried out several professions, including radio DJing, dishwashing, mystery shopping, and stand-up comedy. Metter enjoyed three decades as an academic librarian on Denver’s Auraria campus. She enjoys walking anywhere and singing along.”

For more, check out her website.

Appraisal:

This is a fun, relatively short read that depending on your age, parental status (are you a parent?) or parental goals (if you aren’t a parent, do you want to be now or in the future?), will speak to you in a different way. As a grandfather well past the point where having another child is likely, I still enjoyed this. But regardless of where you stand on having children, this will make you laugh, but also get you thinking. If you want kids and don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t, this book will give you some perspective on that, but in a way that will have you laughing and smiling. This book, while covering a subject that some might take overly seriously approaches everything in a humorous way. For those who don’t want kids now or in the future, you’ll have your decision reinforced as well. Along with the fun to be had in the main sections of the book there are some quotes from various people (labeled as “marvelous quote”) interspersed throughout as well as some cartoons that reinforce the message of the book.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A bit of adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 17-18,000 words

Friday, April 26, 2024

Reprise Review: The Taste of Air by Gail Cleare


 Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction

Description:

“A simple phone call disrupts Nell Williams’s well-ordered life. Her mother, Mary, is in a hospital in Vermont. But her mother is supposed to be safely tucked away in an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts, so Nell can’t fathom why she would be so far from home.

After notifying her sister, Bridget, Nell hops on a plane and rushes to her mother’s side. There, she discovers that her mother has been living a second life. Mary has another home and a set of complex relationships with people her daughters have never met.

When Nell and Bridget delve deeper into their mother’s lakeside hideaway, they uncover a vault of family secrets and the gateway to change for all three women.”

Author:

“USA Today bestselling author Gail Cleare has written for newspapers, magazines, Fortune 50 companies and AOL. Her award-winning ad agency represented the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She was the turtle Leonardo's date for the world premiere of the second TMNT movie, and got to wear a black evening gown and sparkly shoes. Gail lives on an 18th century farm in Massachusetts with her family and dogs, cats, chickens, black bears, blue herons, rushing streams and wide, windy skies. She's into organic gardening and nature photography, and can often be found stalking wild creatures with a 300 mm lens.”

For more, visit her website.

Appraisal:

While not a mystery, The Taste of Air has a bit of a mystery at its root. How did Nell’s mother get from an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts to a Vermont hospital? As Nell and her sister Bridget uncover the answer to that question, an answer that is far more complicated than they would have dreamed, it sets the stage for them and the reader to consider a lot of things. How well do we really know the people we think we know best? Odds are you’re hiding things from your kids, parents, and/or spouse, not to mention other family and friends. What makes you think they aren’t doing the same?

While I enjoyed The Taste of Air for the story, full of suspense, mystery, and drama, which kept me entertained, it also got me thinking. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Original review published June 30, 2017

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Monday, April 22, 2024

Review: Looking for Home; A Lesbian Life in America by Dr. Gail S. Bernstein


 Genre: Memoir/LGBTQ

Description:

“With wisdom and insight, psychologist Dr. Gail S. Bernstein wrote frequently about her personal experiences and the issues facing LGBT people in America today. Following her death, her brother Ralph Bernstein compiled many of her essays and an unfinished memoir into this book. Filled with passion and humanity, Gail's eloquent writing gives voice to many of the fears, hopes and dreams of the LGBT community. A must-read for anyone concerned about gender equality and the rights of all people.”

Author:

Dr Gail S. Bernstein had a doctorate in psychology. Over her lifetime she worked in several professions including as a teacher and as a psychologist as well as being an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community.

Appraisal:

I think my book reviews probably mention that I think reading books helps make you a better person because it leads to a better understanding of people not like you. Memoirs are especially good for this. They’re also fun to compare someone that is like you and see how your experiences and take on things differ. In this case it was definitely a comparison to someone much different than me. Just because someone is different in some ways, doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself in sync with their thinking which I definitely found myself doing as I read through this. I found myself developing a great amount of respect and appreciation for Dr Bernstein as well as understanding what life is like for my friends and family who have a lot in common with her.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 19-20,000 words

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Review: AXION: The Memory Rights Uprising by David Shulman


 

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Description:

AXION: The Memory Rights Uprising is a provocative cautionary tale set in the very near future when dramatic breakthroughs in neuroscience and the first complete molecular decoding of a human memory triggers an unthinkable gold rush to privatise human memory.

A high stakes courtroom battle parallels the dramatic rise of a militant memory rights movement which will stop at nothing to block the world's first 'memory tax'. The neurotech giant Cortx will stop at nothing to impose one.

Gil Hinchliff is a renegade attorney prepared to risk his life and sanity to expose the grisly atrocities of Cortx as they conduct human memory experiments off the grid of ethical oversight or accountability. Cortx is determined to use the courts and patent law to stake a property claim - and an ongoing financial claim - to a class of enhanced human memories which they insist belong to them.

The Memory Rights Alliance (MRA) - co-founded by Hinchliff - is at the vanguard of a new dimension of human rights battles on a global scale.”

Author:

“David Shulman is a BAFTA and TV Academy Award winning documentary producer and director. Originally from New York City, David moved to London in 2000 having been awarded a U.S./UK Fulbright Fellowship. By 2005, he became one of the few Americans to gain a staff position at the BBC where for 10 years he produced and directed science, history, and arts programs.”

Appraisal:

I find that I have a hard time getting into some science fiction because I can’t relate to something in the story, usually because the world it takes place in is so different from our current world that I can’t put myself in that world and believe it. If a sci-fi book is a space opera in another universe populated by non-human-like characters, I’ll pass. But other science fiction can draw me in because it feels very possible in the future (often the not too distant future) that what is depicted could happen.

This book is definitely one of those in the latter category. In fact, it’s biggest fault might be the it feels too close and all too probable that things could happen the way they’re depicted in this story. Given the recent rise of artificial intelligence with all the positives and not-so-positive effects as well as all the discussion and concern around it, this book takes us to the next step, the ability to map, record, and in some fashion impact what goes on in our brain, specifically memories. If you’ve got a brain (and I’m assuming any being that can read this does), then this will get you thinking and wondering. Another thing I found myself considering is what I think of people who do wrong things in order to get the right result for themselves and the world in general. Then there is the twist at the end that I sure didn’t see coming. I’m not sure what to think of it other than it added an additional layer to all that happened, even if done in retrospect. A good, thought-provoking read.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions.

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on an advance reviewer copy, so I can’t gauge the final product in this area.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Review: The Crew by Michael Mohr

 


Genre: Literary fiction

Description:

“When Jack Donnigan—a na├»ve, protected 16-year-old sophomore at St. Andy’s Prep in Southern California in 2000—jumps into The Crew, a renegade punk rock clique on campus led by the nefarious and intelligent Cannonball, he is thrilled. But he soon challenges Cannon’s leadership by starting a secret relationship with Cannon’s chosen girl, Sarah, and by jumping on stage at live punk shows, displaying more bravery to the rest of the members.

Jack’s relationship with mom and dad becomes increasingly strained. He stays out late and rebels for the first time, enjoying his freedom and wild experimentation. The faculty at St. Andy’s—wanting to dismantle the cult hero status of The Crew on campus—organize a coup. They plan to nail the perceived leader: Jack Donnigan, who’s been conned by Cannonball.

Meanwhile, Sarah and Jack decide to run away to Jack’s uncle’s in San Francisco, flee their small town and live “real life.” Jack’s mentor is his beloved but unconventional English teacher, Mr. Bryce. When the faculty nail Jack, Mr. Bryce does his best to save the floundering student. But when Jack is finally kicked out of his folks’ home, and Cannonball connives to drum up drama, stealing Sarah back by spreading a web of lies, who will save him from himself?”

Author:

“Michael Mohr is a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer, former literary agent’s assistant and freelance book editor.” For more, visit his website.

Appraisal:

I related to this story way more than I want to admit. I think anyone who had a rebellious streak in their teens (an extremely large percentage of the population I suspect) will react the same. Those who didn’t will at least see a high school friend or maybe enemy or at least someone they knew in their high school years in Jack Donnigan, the protagonist of this story.

Since I was able to relate to Jack, I was also concerned as to how things were going to work out for him. There were a lot of possibilities, some good, some very much not so, and plenty in between. I’ll leave it to you to decide where on this spectrum things end up for when you’re done reading, but will say that I wasn’t sure how things were going to end until they did. It was an intense tale that kept me engrossed to the very end.

One minor issue, but worth mentioning, is whoever did the copyediting or proofreading of this needs to research the phrase “all of the sudden” and discover that it should be “all of a sudden” according to all the experts. But even if you cringe the handful of times you read this, it is bearable and the rest of the editing and proofreading was great.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

A bit of adult language. They’re wild teenage punks, it wouldn’t be realistic without some.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues other than a handful or more times where the book says “all of the sudden” instead of the correct “all of a sudden” which grates on me way more than it probably should.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Review: Muffalettas and Murder by Jann Franklin


 

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Description:

“Evangeline Delafose is finding Graisseville, Louisiana just as she remembered—boring and uneventful. Until her brother Nate asks her to help solve a murder.

Follow Ev as she navigates clues, dead bodies, and quirky small-town residents to solve a mystery. And of course, show her little brother that she's still got it.

You'll laugh, cry and roll your eyes at the antics of this charming small-town Southern sleuth and her exasperating private investigator.

This book is the first of the Small-Town Girl Mystery Series.”

Author:

Jann Franklin lives in Grand Cane, a small town in Louisiana that only had a population of 217 in the 2020 census. She grew up in a small town in Arkansas, then spent some time living in big cities in Texas, first Waco for college, then Dallas. But now, like Evangeline, the star of her book, Jann finds herself living in a small town again. For more, check out her website.

Appraisal:

This was a fun read. At its heart you’ve got a cozy mystery, with Ev, the protagonist, who has just moved back to the small town she grew up in helping her brother, a policeman, by looking into a murder case that he’s not making any progress on. Trying to imagine who the guilty party might be is difficult because there are a lot of people who are possibilities, but none are obviously the guilty party. As the story goes on people go on the list, then off, sometimes back on, as Ev and her cohort Shorty dig into the evidence and question people around town to put things together.

Shorty, who Ev describes as her “private investigator” is a hoot. He adds a lot of humor, is a unique character, and he keeps Ev both entertained and sometimes confused as he helps her out for a reasonably small price.

The other factor that makes this book unique is the small town atmosphere and culture. If you’ve never lived or spent much time in a small town, prepare to be amused and confused as you get exposed to how things tend to be in small towns where everybody knows everybody, or so it seems. That’s good in some ways, not so much in others, and you’ll get an idea of why that is as you read this fun cozy mystery.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Although one character is inclined to swear, he does his best to keep it under control. If you’re touchy about such words, what sneaks through shouldn’t be too tough to handle and everyone will be amused at the alternative ways of expressing his thoughts this character comes up with.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Review: Destiny Walk by Melissa Bowersock


 

Genre: Mystery/Paranormal/Cozy Mystery

Description:

“Medium Sam Firecloud and his partner Lacey are called into a posh residence in Pasadena, California, to investigate a suicide. When they arrive, the terrified spirit immediately attaches herself to Sam, but she is so desperate and panicky that she threatens to overwhelm him with her all-consuming emotions. Sam wants to help the woman’s husband understand why she ended her life, but he’s not sure he’ll be able to cut through her anxiety in order to get to the reason behind it. And now the panic-stricken ghost refuses to let go of her grasp on the medium. Sam has never been gripped like this before in his life, and he’s not at all sure he can break out of it and bring peace to the distressed family—on both sides of the veil.”

Author:

“Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: paranormal, biography, western, action, romance, fantasy, spiritual, and satire.”

For more visit Ms.Bowersock’s website and follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

I’ve read several of the now forty-two books in this series and they never fail to be a fun read that keeps me on my toes, not being able to figure out what to expect or where the story is going. Actually there are certain things that I can expect. One, that there will be a person who has died and their spirit remains, refusing to move on to the next life. When they died (last week or a century or more ago) is up in the air. Why they’re unable to move on is a mystery. What it will take so they feel like they can move on is a question that needs to be answered so that Sam Firecloud with the assistance of his partner, Lacey Fitzpatrick, can help them move on.

This story has all of those things and yet it feels like the elements are put together in this story much differently than those books I’ve read in the series prior to this one. Hopefully it isn’t a spoiler to say that multiple lives, past and future, are involved in the hangup preventing our spirit from moving on. I always enjoy reading the books in this series and this might be my favorite, at least until the next one.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Reprise Review: Tales of Aldura: Tears of a Seeress by Susan Stuckey


 

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Short Story

Description:

“If Father Tree dies so will all children and creatures of the Twin Goddess including the Njae. Arael's Rest, the home of the Kalwyn Njae, has been under siege by the Halurdow for more than a generation. Added to the enemy, a plague has struck the Njae--a plague that is always fatal. If any Kalwyn Njae are to survive, they must flee their home. Seeress Illyani and her son, Glimrion, fight to save Father Tree and stop the Halurdow. Will they succeed?”

Author:

Susan Stuckey: “Currently (mostly) retired, but 'back in the day' Susan was a meek, mild-mannered, self-effacing accountant/auditor by day but after 5:00 her imagination broke free. She either played with historical stories, or in the magical World of Aldura she created.

Besides playing in fantasy worlds and/or historical times, Susan dabbles in various hobbies, loves to try new recipes, and is the servant of multiple fur-children (both feline and canine).”

Learn more about Ms. Stuckey by checking out her Facebook page.


Appraisal:

Tears of a Seeress is a prequel to Phaedra. It’s a powerfully emotional tale about love and commitment for family, clan, and hope for a better future. Father Tree grows in the heart of Arael's Rest, the home of the Kalwyn Njae, who have been entreated to its protection. The Njae have erected a Barrier Wall surrounding Arael’s Rest, which will be imbued with magic following their exodus, to safer territories. The Halurdows, blood-thirsty warriors of the Dark God - Urdow, are sworn to annihilate everything the Twin Goddess has created, are fast approaching the gates of Arael’s Rest.   

Seeress Illyani and her entire family, are facing heart-wrenching decisions before the exodus through a secret tunnel under the Barrier Wall. The plot moves fast, as there are only fourteen pages. However, that doesn’t mean this is a light read. Ms. Stuckey has chosen her words wisely to weave heart-breaking tension and reflection to draw the reader in quickly while setting up the premise. The main characters and setting are well described. The magic is well thought-out and fascinating. I am glad I picked up this short story and highly recommend all of Ms. Stuckey’s stories in her Tales of Aldura series. She is a masterful storyteller and will not let you down.??

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Although Tears of the Seeress is set earlier in the time-line, than other Tales of Aldura series, I would recommend reading this after reading Phaedra.

Original review published June 21, 2017

Format/Typo Issues:

No errors in proofing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 4-5,00 words