Monday, May 21, 2018

Reprise Review: Craving Caine by Erica Lucke Dean with Elise Delacroix



Genre: Erotic Romance/Suspense

Description:

“Emily Chambray wants a divorce. Unfortunately, her husband believes in’til death do us part with an emphasis on death. She won’t get another chance, so her get-away plan must be foolproof. When a ruggedly handsome stranger comes to her aid, she definitely doesn’t expect to fall for him in her hour of deepest need.

Xavier Caine has ulterior motives when he offers Emily refuge in his rustic cabin. Against his better judgment, he is drawn to her innocent allure and natural beauty. Together, they explore a sensual relationship that rocks their world. But once Caine sets the stage for his own agenda, Emily could end up directly in the eye of the very storm she’s been trying to escape.”

Authors:
Erica Lucke Dean:

“After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains where she lives in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse with her workaholic husband, her 180lb lap dog, and at least one ghost.”

To learn more about her, visit her website, blog, or Facebook page.

“Elise Delacroix married her high school sweetheart and moved to a remote hideaway far enough from civilization that she was forced to create her own entertainment. When playing charades got old, she came up with a plan to write erotic romance in order to keep life exciting. She may spend most of her days lounging in a pair of red flannel pajamas, but her characters wouldn’t be caught dead in anything less than satin and lace.

While Elise also writes in other genres using a pen name, it’s her collaborations with Erica Lucke Dean where she lets her naughty side come out to play. And oh, what a naughty side she has.”

Appraisal:

Emily was too young and naive to understand who she was marrying when she became Nicky Chambray’s wife. An arrogant, sadistic, and manipulative crime boss she cannot escape from. Emily’s character is well developed and although she is in desperate need to be rescued, she is likeable. Caine’s character is introduced slowly, he is handsome and capable, but is he a good guy or not? I found the story compelling and didn’t want to put it down. Ms. Dean has a way of making her characters believable and relatable in a way that enhances her stories. It seems as if she has found a good writing partner with Ms. Delacroix, as I can’t tell when one is writing or the other.

The relationship that grows between Emily and Caine after a few false starts was realistic as they learn to trust each other and their relationship takes a sexual turn. The plot twists were well thought-out and believable scenarios. The suspense is intense as the story unfolds and secondary characters true colors are revealed. There was a lot of story packed in this short novel and I found it highly enjoyable.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Adult language, situations, and explicit sex scenes

Added for Reprise Review: Craving Caine by Erica Lucke Dean with Elise Delacroix was a nominee in the Romance category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran May 31, 2014.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words

Friday, May 18, 2018

Review: Burn the Evidence by Keith Nixon



Genre: Crime Fiction

Description:

“A body washes up on the beach near Ramsgate in the South of England. For DS Solomon Gray, the case appears cut and dried—a drowning. An immigrant.  Another victim to the sea in his desperate attempt to reach the UK.

As the tidewaters recede, two more corpses surface. One appears to be a refugee, stabbed to death. The other, Gray recognises immediately. Regan Armitage: son of business tycoon Jake Armitage. Gray knows this means trouble.

A post mortem reveals ligature marks on Regan's wrists. Drugs in his bloodstream. All signs indicate murder. Armitage swears to track down his son's killer and avenge his death.

Gray's investigation points to a deadly fire ten years prior, and soon Armitage comes under suspicion. But DS Gray knows what it's like to lose a child and puts aside his distrust of Armitage to help.

How are the dead men connected to each other—and to the infamous fire?

It's then that Gray gets another tip on the whereabouts of his own missing son, Tom...”

Author:

“Keith Nixon is a British born writer of crime and historical fiction novels. Originally he trained as a chemist, but Keith is now in a senior sales role for a high-tech business. Keith currently lives with his family in the North West of England.”

Appraisal:

As the story begins Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray has one case, an apparent drowning of an immigrant sneaking into England, that quickly turns into a search for a murderer with three bodies involved. As the investigation progresses, DS Gray finds a connection to another crime from ten years previous.

However, if you read Dig Two Graves, the first of the Solomon Gray novels, you’ll already know that Gray’s most important case is to find out what happened to his son Tom. Is it possible some of the people involved in the other cases might help Solomon find Tom?

Burn the Evidence is an engaging, intense read with twists, turns, and connections between the different cases that aren’t what you’re expecting.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions and slang.

While the second book in the Solomon Gray series, this could be read as a standalone. The most critical things to know from the first book are explained enough to follow in this volume.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Reprise Review: The Road to Nowhere by Shana Hammaker



Genre: Urban Fantasy/Young Adult

Description:

Nowhere is hidden not too far east of Somewhere, just past No Man’s Land. It is a desolate place with secrets of a hidden past.

Someone is sabotaging the construction of a highway from the happy hamlet of Somewhere that leads straight to Nowhere. Amarillo Saffron, Mayor Orange’s secretary for the town of Somewhere, seeks to uncover corporate corruption and biotech espionage as well as expose the secrets Nowhere is hiding.

Author:

“Shana Hammaker grew up in sunny California, but dreamed of escaping to cooler climes. She considered Bangor, Maine, possibly because her favorite author, Stephen King, lives nearby, but instead, ended up in Tennessee where it is warmer and more humid.”

“… it was in this sultry Southern climate that Shana realized her destiny: to read and write stories in which weird and frequently horrible things occur. (Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011) And also, on occasion, to write quirky little memoirs.”

Ms. Hammaker is the author of The Cookie Dumpster and Hieroglyphs along with her set of thriller short stories from Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011. Feel free to check out Ms. Hammaker’s other books on her Amazon author page or Goodreads.

Appraisal:

This is a unique story in that the urban fantasy world sits smack dab in the middle of our own world. Somewhere’s biotech firm Ardor Labs claims to have perfected a system to help people live happy stress-free lives. With their emotion actuator inhaler one can breathe their stress into it at night for a restful emotionless sleep or inhale hope out of it during the day if you start feeling down or stressed and a vitamin called Actify! to start each day anew. Inhaling hope out of the actuators has a drug like quality to it, so when it becomes evident that someone is stealing hope, officials get concerned.

Meanwhile in Nowhere there is very little hope, it’s a dead little town with no color that is surrounded by a force field, and No Man’s Land is downright toxic situated between Nowhere and Somewhere. One of Nowhere’s biggest secrets are the lost children living hidden from the world inside its secured border. I felt like I had stepped into one of Tim Burton’s domains here, I love his style and perspective.

Cerulean, age eighteen, has been living in Nowhere for nine years and is one of the oldest inhabitants besides Mayor Blue. She does her best to take care of and protect the young children when they mysteriously appear at Gruesome Point on the southern edge of Nowhere. Mayor Blue sustains his life-force with children’s tears and has evil designs for Nowhere.

The characters are colorful and well developed. When a small gang in Nowhere, who call themselves Outlawz, are given a taste of the stolen hope from Somewhere, they go to desperate measures to insure they get more, and things go from bad to worse. When Amarillo Saffron, with the help of investigative reporter Fern Viridian, looks into Deputy Mayor Scarlet and Ardor Labs, wondering about their connection to Nowhere, the plot takes clever and devastating turns. This story has a dystopian feel to it at times as the plot moves forward and truths are revealed as their society starts to unravel.

Ms. Hammaker does an excellent job painting a picture of the desolate Nowhere and No Man’s Land world with her prose and uses colorful character names for the inhabitants of Somewhere, which is a much more hopeful place until the storm hits…  The dialogue is realistic and convincing even between the children of Nowhere when they decide to take a stand against Mayor Blue. There are lessons to be learned here in this clever skillfully told and at times frightening story.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: The Road to Nowhere by Shana Hammaker was the winner in the Paranormal category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran October 15, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on an advance reader copy. I am unable to judge the final book in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Quest of Thunder by Karissa Laurel



Genre: Young Adult/Epic Fantasy/Adventure

Description:

“Evelyn Stormbourne has overcome revolutionaries, pirates, devious relatives, and powerful Magicians to claim her birthright as Lady of Thunder, but before she can embrace her dominion over the skies, her powers falter, leaving her impotent and adrift. Under the protection of her stalwart companion, Gideon Faust, Evie hides in anonymity and searches for news of the Fantazikes who had once promised to help her master her divine abilities.

Without her capacity to control the storms, Evie wonders how she’ll ever reclaim her throne—a legacy she’s not convinced she deserves. But when a fearsome nemesis from her past reemerges, she embarks on desperate quest to find the Fantazikes and restore her powers. If she fails, her enemy’s dark Magic will enslave her, forcing her to destroy everything and everyone she loves.”

Author:

“Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky. Some of her favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, and super heroes. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. She loves to read and has a sweet tooth for fantasy, sci-fi, and anything in between.”

To learn more about Ms. Laurel, please visit her website, or stalk heron Facebook.

Appraisal:

Evelyn Stormbourne, Lady of Thunder and the Crown Princess of Inselgrau has lost her connection to the skies. Evie is now on a quest with her companion and protector Gideon Faust. Their goal is to locate the Fantazikes, a clan she met in her first adventure, Heir of Thunder. They live and travel in airships powered by lightning. They once promised to help her master her divine abilities.

When tragedy strikes from an old nemesis Evie is forced to leave Gideon behind and go on the run searching for a safe place. Where better to hide than a traveling circus? However, this isn’t just any ol’traveling circus. She is allowed to stay, but Evie has to earn her keep for passage by working in the kitchen wagon and cleaning up each morning. In the afternoon she mends and repairs costumes. The circus workers are colorful and unique folks who all speak different languages. Evie has to find a way to communicate with them and make friends, while keeping her own true identity hidden for everyone’s protection. There is more to this circus than meets the eye and Evie intends to learn its secrets.

This book is full of evil magicians’ and devastating battles, not only with magic, but with crossbows, swords, knives, and guns. Several twists in the plot makes it hard to set the book aside as tension grows. All is not as it seems and the world is smaller than Evie ever imagined. The steampunk elements are surprising and magically delicious. There is a romance blooming between Gideon and Evie that only takes up a small portion of the novel as Gideon patiently chisels away Evie’s walls. He has my heart already. And I hope to see more from the circus crew in the next book. Evie’s journey to reclaim Inselgrau is bound to be spectacular. I can’t wait to see how Ms. Laurel wraps this trilogy up.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Quest of Thunder is book 2 in the Stormbourne Chronicles by Karissa Laurel. I would recommend reading Heir of Thunder, Stormbourne Chronicles book 1 before reading this book.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Friday, May 11, 2018

Reprise Review: dEaDINBURGH by Mark Wilson



Genre: YA/Dystopian/Thriller

Description:

Edinburgh 1645, the time of the bubonic plague. The victims are locked underground in catacombs. 2015 and these same catacombs are opened, the plague attacks the Scottish population. 2050 and Edinburgh is quarantined off. There are rumours of a cure, but finding the source is believed to be certain death at the hands of the zombies. Joey MacLeod is a trainee 'priest' part of a church that worships the zombies. But he escapes and with the help of Alys Shepherd learns about his past and the real source of the zombies.

Author:

Mark Wilson is a biology teacher in Fife, Scotland. He is also the author of four novels, his most recent being dEaDINBURGH. In addition Mark formed an independent publishing company in 2013 to publicise Scottish authors. The author lives in Edinburgh with his family.

You can learn more about the author at his website.

Appraisal:

Now I don't usually read dystopian or zombie novels. With a very few exceptions I don't get on with either genre particularly well. If there's a zombie TV programme, such as The Waking Dead, I usually switch off eventually. I also very rarely read YA either. However, I have previously greatly enjoyed Mark Wilson's writing - so I gave dEaDINBURGH a try, and I'm glad I did. This is one of those aforementioned rare exceptions.

Phew!

So, the premise is a disease has created zombies, but there are still a few humans clinging onto life. There are several interdependent communities and we receive protagonists from each to drive the story forward. There's a group of zombie worshippers, literally religious nuts - Joey is a youth reluctantly waiting to be ordained to serve the zombies for the rest of his life. But there's something mysterious about his past, he's an orphan and doesn't know who his parents are. Padre Jock is one of the order, but he's not like the rest, he seems to know something about Joey. Then there's a community of women, no men are allowed - Alys is a born fighter, but questions why they have to be separated from the rest. Then there's Bracha, a vicious survivalist who'll do anything to stay alive.

Okay, so far so good. I was intrigued, caught by the characters, interested to see what happened next when the pair, Joey and Alys, 'escape' their respective confinements and go into the wider world accompanied by Jock. The kids are naive but learn quickly, and brutally. Then Wilson delivers several twists and surprises which elevates dEaDINBURGH beyond a straightforward zombie novel. I won't reveal what they are as you should find these out for yourself, but they're to do with Joey's past and the zombies themselves. The conclusion sets us up for book two very neatly.

Edinburgh and its surrounding countryside is a great backdrop, the author uses the scenery well. The characters are strong and the story drives along at pace. The zombies aren't really the major part of the story, there are touching inter-relationships that develop, taut situations the characters must develop. All in all an interesting, intriguing book. I'll be reading the follow up for sure.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Despite the zombies, nothing of note, which as it's YA, that's good.

Added for Reprise Review: dEaDINBURGH by Mark Wilson was a nominee in the Young Adult category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran March 29, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Review: The Road Most Travelled by J. Kairu



Genre: Dystopian

Description:

“In a world where life breaches dangerously close to death, the Taker has come to collect. Past side street brothels, secluded houses, flooded slums and sterile high rise blocks, he remains determined to fulfil his mission – but who is he here for, and why?”

Author:

“Kairu is a Kenyan-born, Melbourne-based writer. As an only child, writing became a means of creative escape, and slowly evolved into a deep need to express and understand herself and others.”

Appraisal:

The premise of this book is that someone known as the “Soul Taker” will come to escort you to where ever you go when it’s time for you to move on from this life. The book has been described as a novella, which is one valid way to look at it. Another way to describe it might be a collection of linked short stories. With the exception of a short introduction to the concept of the soul taker and an epilogue at the end, each chapter is the story of one person’s final moments before being escorted away by the soul taker who is the only character that ties the whole book together.

The concept was clever and each episode engaging. It’s a quick and thought provoking read. If the premise appeals, definitely worth your time to give it a try.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The author lives in Australia. This is reflected in both word usage/slang as well as spelling conventions used.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Monday, May 7, 2018

Review: Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty by Stacy Juba



Genre: Romantic Comedy/Young Adult/Chick Lit

Description:

“Dance instructor Rory Callahan likes to play it safe. When she meets Kyle, he’s impulsive, persistent, and her exact opposite. He’s pushing her to tango way past her comfort zone and keeping Rory on her toes more than twenty years of dance teachers ever had.

Unfortunately, he’s the grandson of her family’s archrival and she doesn’t want to disappoint them. After all, her parents imagine her as a proper princess - hence her namesake Aurora, AKA Sleeping Beauty. Complicating matters, Rory’s also dealing with a surgeon boyfriend who’s perfect for her (sort of), an obnoxious boss, and desperate dance moms. Kyle wants to change her whole life, but Rory doesn’t like the stakes. After all, princesses are the ones who get the happy endings. . .aren’t they?”

Author:

“Stacy Juba loves to write about Characters at a Crossroads: individuals who are finding themselves and getting on the right life path after overcoming obstacles. Her goals are to entertain readers of all ages as well as inspire them through her mystery, romance, and contemporary fiction books for adults, teens, and children. She has written about ice hockey, sibling rivalry, and sportsmanship, teen psychics, U.S. flag etiquette for kids, and determined women sleuths solving mysteries.”

Find out more about Ms. Juba on her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Aurora Callahan, nicknamed Rory, is floating through her life. She’s dating a doctor in residency. Their relationship is comfortable but going nowhere. When Rory trips into Kyle’s life they both enjoy a lively banter. Which entices Rory and Kyle alike.

Rory’s brother, Dylan is general manager for the family-owned Storybook Valley Amusement Park, who we met in book one. Wants to start a princess program for young girls that will incorporate dance, crafts, and games. He wants Rory to teach it. Grandmother is quick to offer her services for etiquette lessons as well. Rory agrees to start the program but can’t see how she can continue to work the program while she is teaching ballet and running interference between competitive dance students, their mothers, and other dance teachers who are tired of dealing with their overly competitive boss. It’s beginning to be a full-time job for Rory to smooth things over for everyone involved. Things are working to a boiling point.

I really enjoyed the way this story was told. I kept waiting for Rory to end up in a coma like her namesake Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. That would have devastated me, because I grew to love all the characters. That’s not to say I didn’t want to slap Rory a few times or perhaps just shake her and yell, ‘WAKE UP’. It was fun watching her learn to stand up for herself and go after her dream job and dream guy with or without her family’s approval. It was also nice to learn more about Rory’s family’s past. What a quirky family with grandmother all prim and proper, and grandfather with his feud that stems from a high school classmate and his garden gnomes. This is a quick easy, enjoyable read.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty is book 2 in Ms. Juba’s Storybook Valley Series. These novels can be read in any order. The series starts with Fooling Around With Cinderella.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no issues with proofing or formatting.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Friday, May 4, 2018

Reprise Review: Green Eggs and Weezie by Cathy Oliffe-Webster



Genre: Women’s Fiction

Description:

Weezie is happy in her marriage to Butch Polk. He’s no oil painting, and the romance has long gone from their relationship, but he’s a good provider for their two kids. Until, that is, their humdrum existence is shattered when Butch has an affair with his secretary. The story follows Weezie as she comes to terms with life as a cuckolded wife.

Author:

“Cathy Olliffe-Webster was born in 1960 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The daughter of a railroad engineer, she moved many times during her childhood, always seeking permanence in the books she read (her favorites being Nancy Drew, the Black Stallion and Harriet the Spy). After studying journalism, she continued her gypsy ways, working at community newspapers in Gravenhurst, Milton, Port Perry, Peterborough, Haliburton, Huntsville and Bracebridge. She also worked for a national medical newspaper, Family Practice, in downtown Toronto. After 20+ years of award-winning reporting, she decided she'd had enough of covering bowling banquets and curling bonspiels and turned to the graphic design side of the business. As outsourcing and the internet took a toll on traditional newspaper publishing, she retired and decided to do what she'd always dreamed of doing: write a novel.”

Appraisal:

I must say, when I search for my next book tonight, I’m going to miss spending time with Weezie. Mid-forties and overweight, she’s neither beautiful, nor brilliant, but she sure grew on me. A caring person, her most endearing attributes are her sunny view of life and the positive opinion she forms of everyone she meets. And when life serves up lemons, she certainly does turn them into lemonade.

Because this is a story told in first person and solely focused on Weezie’s journey, pretty well anything plot-wise that I reveal would be a spoiler. So, suffice to say, I really enjoyed this tale. Ms. Oliffe-Webster is a heck of a writer. Her prose are so easy on the eye, I ended up turning one last page on many occasions.

To sum up: this is a ‘feel good’ book with plenty of wry humor splashed about for good measure.

As a special bonus, the author includes a few of Weezie’s favorite recipes at the end of the story. The tale turned out in a satisfying and believable way, and left plenty of room for a sequel. IMO, Weezie deserves one.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The book is set in Canada and uses Canadian spelling.

Added for Reprise Review: Green Eggs and Weezie by Cathy Oliffe-Webster was a nominee in the Women’s Fiction category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran April 30, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

None to mention.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Review: The Grumpface by B.C.R. Fegan



Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Description:

“Dan is a young inventor in love. He ventures into a forest looking for a rose but instead finds the mysterious Grumpface who threatens to hold him captive unless he passes some difficult challenges. What follows is a humorous adventure that neither Dan nor the Grumpface could have anticipated.”

Author:

“BCR Fegan is a multi-award-winning author who has written a number of fairy tales and fantasies for children and young adults.”

“His ravenous appetite for both reading and writing soon saw him drawing on the transformational influence of the world around him to craft short stories, poems and picture books.”

Appraisal:

What a fun kids story. I had fun reading it to my four-year-old granddaughter, with its rhyming, lyrical language and a nice mix of things that felt silly (aka fun, for a four-year-old) and serious. That my granddaughter was giggling at the Grumpface (the guy in the book, not her grandfather) was another good sign. We both enjoyed and my granddaughter hopes to revisit the grumpy old guy (that would be the grandfather this time) for another reading of The Grumpface.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 27 pages

Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: Tales of the Whirling Rainbow: Myths & Mysteries for Our Times by Steven McFadden



Genre: Myths/Religion

Description:

“Tales of the Whirling Rainbow is a journalist’s account of some of the key myths and mysteries of the Americas, and an electrifying exploration of how those myths are echoed in real time. Veteran journalist Steven McFadden weaves the living myths together seamlessly in a tightly written ebook that is highly authoritative, informative, and soul-resonant.”

Author:

Steven McFadden describes himself as an “independent journalist.” He is the author of at least 15 nonfiction books.

Appraisal:

A short read that would especially appeal to readers who have a passion for getting to know more about the myths, religion, and spirituality of the indigenous people of the Americas. While I don’t think I’m in the target audience I found the commonality in some of the stories and fables of people who aren’t that close geographically interesting. That so many used common imagery was thought-provoking as well.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 12-13,000 words