Sunday, July 31, 2011

3-Lies by Helen Hanson

Article first published as Book Review:3-Lies by Helen Hanson on Blogcritics.

Terror has its own vices, where belief creates a certain way of life. Money can even sabotage those intentions, twisting belief of reason to a belief in money. Even the best of intentions change for the ever-elusive dollar.

In 3-Lies by Helen Hanson, we follow the lives of Beth Sutton and her new boyfriend Clint Masters, as well as his faithful dog Louie. Beth is a kind and loving young woman, finding love at a time when her life is not at its best. On dialysis, she has not kept her diagnosis a secret from Clint, allowing him to know everything about her from the start. Beginning a relationship with secrets is in no way acceptable to her or her way of life. If he can deal this this than she understands, he can deal with anything.

Kidnapped in a bizarre scheme by a group of terrorists in an effort to blackmail the Supreme Court Justices, Beth is at the mercy of a group with nothing to lose. Bewildered by the action taken by her family, Clint is confused. They not only refuse to report her missing, they file a restraining order against him as a stalker. He struggles with the enormity of the circumstances as he feels her life leak away the longer she is away from both her medication and her dialysis machine. Without them, her system will shut down, and yet he is anathema to the family.

To top it all off his best friend is after him to come back into the business and his soon to be ex-wife has just announced to him that he is going to be a father. Yet none of this makes sense, or compares to the terror he feels at Beth’s disappearance. Not entirely sure of his feelings for her prior to the event, he is now more than ever convinced that he loves her and there is the possibility that he will never see her again.

In a separate situation within the CIA, a young agent Doug Bryant has stumbled on an old code file, one that seems to bring some disturbing information about agents gone missing. Due to his discovery, his clearance is elevated and he is now in the ranks of those with need to know priorities. As he delves into the files themselves, he finds missing funds, missing ships, and a spy in their midst. What is going on with this missing group of agents, and how will he be able to help with his lack of experience?

As both investigations begin to intermesh, the CIA in in the dark about the missing person occurrences, those that deal with the disappearances of the friends and family members of several of the Supreme Court Justices. As every move Doug makes is blocked, he finally finds some of the information he needs to go forward. But who does he trust? He thinks he knows but how can he be sure?

When the leads bring him and his lead together with Clint, they begin to see the scheme as it unfolds. Murder and kidnapping, are just a few of the capabilities of this group of individuals they are tracking. Can they get the information and find Beth in time? When the clues all come together, will they be able to stop this plot from going forward. In a race against time, with lives at stake will Doug and Clint decipher the clues in time?

Hanson has developed a diabolical plot, ones that seems both real and deadly. Her characters, from Beth to Clint, from Doug to the other captives, deliver on the reality of people with whom you can relate. They are human with both strengths and flaws. Overcoming obstacles, and yet at times showing such human emotions, sadness, sympathy, jealousy, and spite, it is easy to imagine the interaction. I was impressed how Hanson was able to take two separate occurrences and draw a line between the two, intersecting and bringing them to fruition in a way that is both believable and impressive.

I would recommend this book for the suspense and thriller seeker. It also delivers on romance, action and adventure, and just a bit of stepping outside of who you are. Once started, I could not put it down. The writing is genuine and the feelings are heartfelt. This would be a wonderful book for your library. I look forward to reading more from Helen Hanson, she has an artistry that is hard to deny.

Rating 5/5

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Author Interview with William F. Brown - Author of The Undertaker

I had a wonderful chance to interview William F. Brown. He is an interesting author and I enjoy his writing. I find it wonderful to be able to know more about the authors and their backgrounds and so I am happy to be able to bring this information to you.
Thank you so much William for sharing your stories and background.

Questions: Please supply your writing name as it appears on your book or e-book and the name of your most recent published story.

William F. Brown, author of The Undertaker

Intro: Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I’m married, and have sons and live in Columbus, Ohio. A native of Chicago, I earned a BA in History and Russian Area Studies and a Master of Urban Planning degree from the University of Illinois, which puts me in the odd position of being an Illini living in Buckeye-land. As a Vice President of the real estate subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company, I had the opportunity to travel widely in the US and abroad. That allowed me to personally experience many of the cities and locations I used as backgrounds in my novels, such as Russia, Germany, the Caribbean, England, Ireland, Scotland, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Austria, Egypt, and Israel. When I’m not writing, I like to play golf (usually poorly) and paint landscapes in oil or acrylics.

Tell us about your book.

The Undertaker is a domestic suspense thriller. To me, it’s a ‘beach book, a fun read with a heavy dose of humor and a dollop of romance, too. Pete Talbott is Boston computer wonk who finds himself at the point of a gun, being shown his own newspaper obituary, torn from the morning newspaper. When he sees his wife’s along with it, that’s a mystery he can’t leave alone. From car chases on the Dan Ryan, snipers in Central Park, a bloody Back Bay townhouse, sleazy lawyers, corrupt County sheriffs, mafia hit men, the FBI, an army of Chicago cops, to the upper berth of an Amtrak train, someone with a sharp scalpel and an embalming table is planting bodies under other people’s names. If Pete can’t stop them, he and his quirky new girlfriend, Sandy Kasmarek, will be next on the list.

What inspired you to be a writer or have you always had a passion for writing?

Frankly, I was always a reader, of every suspense and mystery book that came out, and I read one too many bad ones. (It happened to be an unusually poor Clive Cussler book, but don’t tell anyone.) So, I figured even I could write something that bad. I went to the library, found a number of books on how to structure and write novels and set to work with a cheap electric typewriter and a gallon of white-out. Since then, I’ve written six novels -- two were published in hardback and paperback, one e-book, one now making the rounds with my agent, one I’m finishing, and one I’m about one-third finished with. All are domestic or international suspense novels. I’ve also written four award-winning screenplays. Three of those are adaptations of my novels and one is a domestic drama.

If you could give advice to other authors or aspiring authors what would you say?

Frankly, don’t give up your day job! Very, very few people make a living at writing, especially now. We are living through the greatest transformation of the book business in many decades, perhaps since television, book clubs, or paperbacks, and it is only beginning. Obviously, I’m referring to e-books. Amazon now offers over 700,000 e-books, and the traditional book publishers don’t have a clue what to do. For many years, they cut back on and eliminated ‘mid-list’ books, and in recent years would only look at books that came through an agent. E-pub has now exploded to fill that void at 10-25% of what hardback or even paperback books formerly cost, leaving the traditional publishers with only the occasional big name blockbuster to survive on, and that will not work for much longer. As a writer, I can make almost as much money from a 70% royalty on a $4.00 e-book as I did from 15% on a $17.00 hardback. The problem, of course is getting noticed in all the clutter without a publisher to do all that traditional marketing for you. That means writers must become guerrilla marketers. I hate it, but I’m now doing it, every day.

When you completed your work what was your most difficult roadblock to becoming published?

On dealing with traditional publishers, the biggest problem was finding an agent. Publishers won’t even look at anything that doesn’t come through an agent now, and they’ve become the industry gatekeepers. I’m a successfully published writer! But, once you do get an agent and sell it to a publisher, you’re done. E-books on the other had are deceptively easy to get up and on line. The problem is, it takes just as much time to market one as it took to write it. Different problem, same frustration.

Where can people go to get more information about you and your book?

My web site has evolved and I think is now quite good. I have the usual information on me and my writing, but I also have pages on new reviews, my screenplays and on each of my books, including the first chapters of the upcoming ones I’ve been working on. Check it out.

Stop by and check out my review of The Undertaker, it is well written and quick paced. It is quite an enjoyable read, and I look forward to future works. Stop by Bill's website and check it out, you won't be sorry.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Undertaker by William F. Brown

Article first published as Book Review: The Undertaker by William F. Brown on Blogcritics.

Using the names of others long dead to hide insidious crimes seems like an odd way to do business. The obituary Peter Talbot sees of his own and his wife’s death in a Columbus Ohio newspaper is unbelievable. Not only is he not dead, but his loving wife actually did precede him in death, not in an auto accident as listed, but of cancer. Much of the information was correct but neither he nor his wife had ever been in Ohio. What is happening?

In The Undertaker by William F. Brown, we meet a remarkable man in Peter Talbot. His is a UCLA graduate, was a lieutenant in the army and currently an aeronautical engineer with Symbiotic Software systems. Finding a strange man in his car, asking who he is and why he has the name of the dead man in the paper, make him understandably upset. The 45-caliber weapon in his face does not persuade him anymore then the obituary, yet when the man who introduces himself as Gino Perini exits his vehicle with a warning to leave it alone, he is anything but thrilled.

To him it is a smirch on his wife’s name and he will not allow anyone to make a mockery of her memory. The obituary seems to belittle her life and he decides he will find out what is happening and have it retracted. As Peter begins his research, he finds a pattern of deaths set up much like that of his own.

Each obituary lists the same mortuary, the same attorney, and each of those who perished had no next of kin. The individuals involved are well respected and highly placed individuals, with backgrounds above reproach and in some cases part of the government. Part of the plot involves the mob, and as Peter comes forward with his objections and information, he is suddenly in the spotlight. Unaware of what he has begun, he is now on the run for his life. In researching one of the other alleged fatalities, he finds an old automobile, but one that holds a secret cache, one that others are willing to kill for. Those secrets as well as his smart mouth are about to get him killed. Can he trade those secrets for his safety?

While looking for answers he meets Sandy, one of the murdered victim’s ex-wife. Initially she turns him in to those looking for him, not realizing they are not who they say they are. However once they know who she is, she must now work together with Peter on a solution to get the secret to safety. They are both in peril. This group known as Zero Defects will allow no one to stop them, all in the name of national security.

Ralph Tinkerton is the brains behind this bizarre murder ritual, and he will stop at nothing to plug the leaks. When Peter finds his friends dead, he decides he will do what it takes to get justice. Can he turn the tables on this group of killers before he or anyone else is killed? This secret is a high stakes game of cat and mouse, and the chases just keeps going on. Who will they turn to for help?

Peter is an angry man trying to get through life after the death of his wife. He holds her memory dear and feels that whoever took their identity to hide a murder, has besmirched her name, which he finds unforgivable. She had been the best part of him and he would not rest until he finds out what is happening. He is smart (rocket scientist) and takes good care of himself. He has also been very lucky and able to get out of several life threatening situations. However the goons following him will not give up, and he continues to try to find a solution.

Gino Perini comes and goes throughout the story. He is muscle for the mob, and the man who first got Peter involved in this charade. He is there in the wings just waiting for the right time to make his mark.

Sandy is a spitfire, with many surprises up her sleeve. After initially creating a problem for Peter by contacting the bad guys, she is now helping him try to control the damage. She is no longer safe, she knows too much. However, she has moves and tricks you cannot imagine. She is amazing and full of sparks that keep you entertained.

Brown does an amazing job of creating characters who are real. The humor is incredible, and the murders most foul. The characters have flaws that make them very relatable, and the story itself is quite wicked and very believable.

I would recommend this book for those who love a thriller, with action and suspense. If you enjoy humor and smart thinking you will enjoy the repartee, it is lightning fast and exciting. This would be a great book for a book club; it is full of discussion items. While the humor keeps it a bit light, make no mistake, these killers are formidable and without merit. The coldness of their methods will give you chills long into the evening.

Rating 5/5
The Undertaker

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
Authors Website

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Great Place for a Seizure by Terry Tracy

Article first published as Book Review:A Great Place for a Seizure by Terry Tracy on Blogcritics.

Epilepsy is still one of those disorders shrouded in mystery. Often an injury or a fever can bring it on abruptly. It can start early in life and then disappear, or it can onset later to cleave to life and make it more difficult and hard to live life to the fullest.

In A Great Place for a Seizure by Terry Tracy we follow the life of Mischa Dunn. Beginning her seizures after her 14th birthday, she has had to live with them for as long as she can remember. Words such as aura, grand mal, petit mall and others mean more to those who have experienced them, and their caretakers and friends then to most anyone else. Those uninitiated to epilepsy or seizures may have heard the words vaguely and might even have a good understanding and yet unless you have been there they are only words.

Building a life around the possibility of seizure is difficult and overbearing for some, yet Terry Tracy has done a great job of creating a character that lives her life with dignity and grace, regardless of her disability. We follow her life through school, college, work, marriage and patent hood, and we learn the lessons of the flaws that afflict others, and I would have to say we take a lesson from the characterization of this work. Not everyone with epilepsy is able to relegate it the way that Mischa does, and yet the same can be said of most people on life in particular. It is not everyone that can live a life of grace and caring, with or without illness, and it is quite instructive to get a depth of information about such a secretive disability, though the life and courage of such a brave character.

I really enjoyed this story; it is full on life and joy, but ribboned with sadness and pain, and a shadow of grief and longing.

Terry Tracy had drawn on something she knows quite well, and built a story to help bring–not just the illness itself to life–but to put it in perspective of living life as well. I have some experience with this myself as one of my younger sisters was diagnosed quite young, but she was not to be one of the lucky ones. She died quite young at 23. I believe that Terry Tracy has done a terrific job of bringing to light some of the fears and questions evinced by those that do not understand. It is uncomfortable to be present for a seizure, and it is easy to panic and makes things worse. Even now, we are learning more about this stressful and debilitating problem.

By invoking epilepsy and bringing it to light in such a fashion, Tracy takes away some of the mystery and makes it more of just another problem experienced in life, instead of a strange and fearful illness.

This would be a wonderful book for a book club or reading group. The characterization is excellent and the in-depth study of epilepsy is full of knowledge and information. The story itself is well told, with fact and fiction. The ending threw me off a bit, I was surprised and went back to see if I was missing something, but it may have just been a form of letting us know that while epilepsy is a darkness, there are other more deadly and debilitating diseases that can damage a family far more and with even worse consequences.

Rating 4/5
A Great Place for a Seizure

This book was recieved free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

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Chop Suey: A Darby Stanfield Thriller by Ty Hutchinson

Article first published as Book Review: Chop Suey: A Darby Stansfield Thriller by Ty Hutchinson on Blogcritics.

Combine an obsessive, compulsive and desperate salesperson, willing to go to any lengths to make a sale, with an unlikely group of Triad members of the fan gang in Hong Kong, and see a recipe for disaster,the likes of which we have never seen before.

In Chop Suey: A Darby Stansfield Thriller by Ty Hutchinson, we follow the often funny and goofy plans of Darby Stansfield to move back to the sales leaderboard at his job for a telecommunications company. When blackmailing his customers doesn’t work he comes up with even stranger ideas, which just create more problems, but he is determined to find a way to succeed.

Having dinner at his favorite place, Mr. Fu’s restaurant, he spends a little time speaking with Mr. Fu himself. When Darby notices his tattoo and remarks on it, Mr. Fu begins to tell Darby his story. Talking about his former life the older gentleman describes his life in the Triad organization, but with a warning to Darby of confidentiality. Later at home as Darby is wrestling with more ways to sell his equipment, Fu’s story pops into his head, creating an even more diabolical plan of selling his product. He will find a way to sell to the fan gang, a member gang of the Triads. How hard can it be?

His friend Tav is aghast and yet Darby is enthralled. This plan could be the break he is looking for. If he can help make the fan gang more successful, they will have to continue to buy from him. This plan is the perfect set up. It will put his name back on the top of the leader board. First, he must find a way to make himself known.

Little does Darby know, but he has woken a deep and deadly dragon with his questions. Brutal and sadistic, remembering his enjoyment of slaughter, this deadly entity both hates Darby and relies on him. Darby’s questions and involvement have reawakened his longing for revenge.

Unaware of the danger he created; Darby heads to Hong Kong to make a deal, and meets the notorious gang he is looking for. Showing them how he can help them they agree to use his product, but are not yet sold on the idea. Darby will have to work hard to get them to buy in. Meeting a young police officer in Hong Kong, he is surprised to run into her back in the States. He is unnerved to find out her sister has been murdered. Hooking up with her, he is a bit nervous in case she finds out what he is planning. Can he help her find the killer without tipping his hand?

Darby is a desperate man, unwilling to do the real work involved in sales. He is looking for a quick sale and while is makes him quite shallow, he is also quite funny and startlingly bold. His conceptualization of ideas is quite hilarious, and he has made a few enemies. But he is also quite fun to be around and has some good friends. His friend Tav is behind him even though he does not believe in his schemes, but is willing to back him in any way he can.

Leslie Choi, the young officer from Hong Kong, is desperate to find the murderer of her sister. She relies on Darby to help her and she really enjoys his company. She is driven. Something seems familiar about this killer. It tugs at her memory, she feels as though They may have crossed paths before. Working with local law enforcement, all hell breaks loose when she disappears. Darby realizes he must get involved and find the killer before it is too late for Leslie?

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy suspense. Be prepared for humor and nonsense as well, it is intriguing and funny, but make no mistake; there is a certain darkness about the killer that keeps it on track. The humor twists throughout the narrative, but the danger and darkness keep the suspense high.

This would make a great book for a book club or a reading group. It is both intrinsically funny and inherently evil, a strangely intoxicating blend, one the keeps the action rolling.

Rating 4/5
Chop Suey

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eternal Knight by Matt Heppe

Article first published as Book Review Eternal Knight by Matt Heppe on Blogcritics.

Times of great trouble seem to be tantamount in every time and place, a time of great peace often followed by a time of peril and so it goes, time after time, in place after place.

In Eternal Knight by Matt Heppe, we meet a young huntress of Landomere. Sworn to protect her people and her land, Hadde holds little hope due to the wasting. Many are ill and dying, the land is parched and food is hard to find. There is bitterness and despair. After finding herself in a strange dream state during one of her hunts, she stumbles upon a magic pendant. Is this a gift from the gods? Can she sell the golden pendent and feed her people for a time? With the wasting continuing to create havoc with the land and its people, Hadde sets out with Belor another of the hunters, to seek help from the Kingdom of Salador.

Attacked not long after they leave their land by strange silver-eyed warriors they are wary yet resolute. To save their people and their way of life they must reach Salador. The attack is silent and deadly, Hadde and Belor fight their way free, but not for long. Belor is mortally injured and Hadde is near capture when rescue appears, in the form of Knights of Salador. She is not sure how to react to these men, women in their kingdom are not allowed to wear armor and she appears to be an embarrassment to them. She is extremely agile with a bow, better than her rescuers, yet her weapons are removed. One knight, Earl Waltas, takes delight in belittling her.

When they reach Salador, she is treated a bit unkindly. No one seems to understand her or her people. She is a huntress, a protector and yet not given the respect of her position. She tries desperately to fit in so that she can get the help of the king. Befriended by the king’s brother, Morin he understands her confusion. Even in her short time Salador, she has made enemies. When Morin is sent on a quest to retrieve the Orb of Creation, she is along for the ride. There is fear that she could bring about the end of the kingdom and it is in her best interest to depart the kingdom and its people.

The quest if fraught with danger and the silver-eyed warriors appear to be increasing. The Orb of creation is the only way to salvation of their lands. Can Hadde and Prince Morin find the Orb in time? Is it really the salvation of their times? The wasting is growing and yet it appears that there could be a correlation between that horror and the Orb.

Heppe has done a great job of building a world on the edge. The wasting is a plague on the place and its people and he makes you feel the despair and hopelessness of the people. The differences in their cultures are well written and interesting. There is a great distance between the areas, and the Saladorans seem quite unaware of the culture of the clan of people from Landomere. They were not aware that a woman could be a Huntress as well and a protector, it is so very different from their own beliefs of what women should be. While some of the cruelness is from ignorance, Heppe does a great job of fleshing out the villains. Hadde is a wonderful protagonist and both brave and a bit ingenuous.

The story is full of action and adventure, and some very interesting bits of magic. If you enjoy epic stories of warriors and adventure, you will certainly find your fill here. The story is quick and energetic, full of bold and courageous characters. I would recommend this for those that enjoy this genre and I look forward to more from this author.

Rating 5/5
Eternal Knight

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mercy by Joshua Grover-David Patterson

Article first published as Book Review: Mercy by Joshua Grover-David Patterson on Blogcritics.

The end of the world as we know it has been a popular theme for many of the newer novels, and yet it has been around for an extremely long time. One of the more talked about, written about and televised endings consists of the advent of zombies. Those newly and long dead creatures that began as human but now feast on humans for their very survival.

In Mercy by Joshua Grover-David Patterson, we follow the life of Georgina, a young wife and adopted mother returning from a stint in Ethiopia, when her plane goes down and she is stranded on a deserted island along with several others. The crash itself was somewhat unusual, and that there is actually a deserted island in this day and age is a surprise as well. Along with her is a young girl Tracy, whose mother was killed, the Sky Marshall, who initially does not speak, a flight attendant named Sharon, and Antony, a first class passenger. There are a few other survivors, and yet they are in a coma and Georgina does not expect them to live. There is no medical treatment, no food or water from the wreckage, and certainly no medical supplies.

We hear the entire story through the journal entries in the journal carefully selected for Georgina by her loving husband to keep her thoughts during her trip. Leaving her young adopted daughter Mercy, is one of the hardest things she has ever done but she feels as though she needs to help in the war torn country that houses Ethiopia. When she is torn from her homecoming by the brutality of the plane wreck, Georgina holds on to her love of Mercy. It is her only real sanity.

The strange events all started with the crash. The few witnesses heard the sound and when the cockpit door opened saw the co-pilot emerge, but only after it appeared as though he had torn out part of the captains throat with his teeth. Although the pilot should have been dead or dying from the injury, he just continues to try to get out of his constraints, albeit in a strangely stiff and uncoordinated manner. The Co-Pilot lumbered through the cabin before falling on Tracy’s mother, and taking a bite out of her leg as well.

Everything becomes cloudy as the plane begins to lose altitude with no pilot at the controls and crashes into the ocean. Those few survivors are not sharing their view of the circumstances surrounding the crash, but they are grouping together out of fear and in an effort of survival.

Hoping for rescue and yet worried by what they have seen, they finally begin to talk amongst themselves. Could the attack on the pilot have somehow been Zombie related? Of course, that was impossible, those were just stories shared to create fear and entertainment. Yet a chill fear lingered. The smell is what first alerted them to something gone wrong. The strong smell of purification, of flesh left to rot, and abraded by the salt of the ocean creating an even stronger stench. The unbelievable sight of dead and partially decomposing bodies coming from the sea sets the tone for the next few weeks on the island. Can they survive on an island when it appears that zombies roam the land? The wreckage of the plane supplies a fresh group of the undead, working their way from their seat belts and damaged equipment, forcing their freedom in an effort to fulfill their hunger. Can this small group of survivors fend off such a group of zombies long enough for some form of rescue? Is rescue even possible? With the advent of zombies here in this place, what is happening in the rest of the world, and where are their families?
In a world gone mad, in the manner of zombie movies of old, Patterson tells a chilling tale of an unparalleled ending of the earth, as we know it. His characters are amazing and his tale is strong. The fighting and killing is ruthless, and a form of hopelessness transcends to those involved. And yet there is hope, a hope of survival the permeates the entire story.

If you enjoy zombies and dystopian settings, you will enjoy this novel. While I am not a zombie fan (too unbelievable for me), I found the story to be very well told and full of actionable scenes. You should read this book in the daylight, and even then, you may want to pull the blinds and lock the doors. It is chilling and strangely horrific, and even when you think rescue is at hand, think again. There are twists and turns you never see coming.

Rating 4/5

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chasing the Ghost by A. Grams

Does love really transcend death? If given a choice to do over, to right things that may have been wrong, or seemed wrong for the one you loved would you take a chance? Would you sell your very soul to make the way smoother for your ‘soul mate’?

In Chasing the Ghost by A. Grams, we have the opportunity to follow the life of a soul in action. Making a deal for another to live her life, allowing her own spirit to follow the life of her love from birth, she intends to help him make decisions for a better life. Alexander sees her ghost when no one else can, and he comes to rely on her as an invisible friend. Little does she realize that while she remembers her love for Alexander from another time and faces that seem important to her, she begins to lose the memory of those names and places.

The other, an omnipresent being, who lives her life and holds her body, will continue until it is time to transition her soul back into this body. It is then, when she will again meet her love, but he will have had a better life, one that will make him a happier man. Here they will hook up again and live life with a love that was meant to be.

Her body drifts and time passes making her further forget her first life, and periodically she is brought back when she is needed to help through heartbreak and trouble. She realizes that she must not step in at every turn, and must allow him some of the mistakes, the ones that make him who he is, but whenever she can she helps to direct him to a better course.

Is it possible to regain a love, when the past is no longer the past. When much of the heartbreak and pain is bypassed and fresh, memories constructed.

As the time comes and she is returned to her own body, will their souls reconnect, but in an even deeper level.

This is a thought provoking and interesting look at what makes a person who and what they are. Can we go back in time and restructure those harmful and hurtful things that gave us pain. Should we really mess with those things that have gone on before? Does an everlasting love always find its way home, to the soul that it connects with time after time, life after life?

This is an interesting story as you follow Alexander’s life as he grows up. The woman ghost is his friend and confidant and he relies on her to help him make it through his roughest periods. He is interesting and A Grams has done a good job of putting together a story of love. This love moves beyond the ordinary, and involves a woman who will sell her very soul to help heal the one she loves.

It is a story of life and love, but also presented with just a small twist of horror. One can never know how a life will change when the baggage of pain is left behind. If you enjoy a bit of mystery and light horror, you will enjoy this novella. It is short but packed with some emotion that leaves you thinking.

Rating 3/5
Chasing the Ghost
This novella was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Shaman, Healer, Heretic: An Olivia Lawson, Techno-Shaman Novel: by M. Terry Green

Article first published as Book Review: Shaman, Healer, Heretic: An Olivia Lawson, Techno-Shaman Novel by M. Terry Green on Blogcritics.

In a world full of wonders, with spirituality regaining a foothold, it seems as though the belief in a higher being comes to a sharper focus. Whether it is traditional religion, new age religion, or any of the varieties in between, the possibilities create something for others to believe in.

In Shaman, Healer, Heretic by M. Terry Green, we are invited into the exciting world of Olivia Lawson, also known as Livvy. A Techno-Shaman, her specialty is helping those trapped in the other realms to return to their current existence. When she finds a kachina in the real world, one of the rare Hopi gods, she knows she must be dreaming. Because it is impossible for a kachina to be in the real world, she knows that something is wrong. As the amazing character attempts to communicate, she cannot understand the message. As its arm comes into contact with her it creates a spark, a semblance of the spiritual guide that exists within Livvy. Her cell phone ring breaks into her thoughts and as she turns to look, the kachina disappears. Something is happening, but she does not know what.

There is really no one to talk to, that can help her understand what she has just seen. Shamans do not speak to each other; in fact, they do not even acknowledge that there may be other Shamans in the world. As Livvy continues with her job to rescue those that end up in the middle or under world, she finds the landscape changing. The patterns are not the same and each trip creates further concern.

Only her friend SK seems to understand the problems she is encountering. Of course, he is the one who brokers the jobs, and he knows all the Shamans and their specialties. He is trustworthy and holds the confidence of those known for their abilities. Livvy holds a special place in his heart, she is one of very few born that holds lightning as her spirit guide. It is a hard guide and dangerous as well. However, along with that it also carries a great deal of power.

When she discovers one of the old gods have escaped and is now in the underworld, creating chaos and destruction, she begins to understand the changes she is witnessing. As pain strikes every Shaman in a bizarre twist, as one of their own seems to self-combust, fear strikes into the heart of the very fabric of their system. In an unprecedented gathering, the Shamans decide to work together to send the old god back to where it came from. With the power evinced by this monster, will they be able to succeed? As the deaths begin to pile up, they begin to understand that there may be a traitor in their midst. Can they find the answers in time? Livvy seems to hold the power to find the answers. Can she find how to use her lightning power in time to save their way of life?

In Shaman, Healer, Heretic we are taken into the realms of the old gods. The Shamans and their powers are explained as well as the existence of their spirit helpers. Each character is created with an insight into their part of the saga. Livvy, our main character is an excellent hero, and SK is not only the perfect foil but also the most interesting intermediary. He is the one who seems to bring it all together. He is rather mysterious and knows a great deal about everything, which creates even more of a mystery. Green takes the initiative to create the characters imbuing them with both strengths and flaws, which draw you in.

They are so very human in many ways, and yet quite powerful in their own rights. The story is fast paced and creates a world of interesting contrasts. It is exciting and yet mysterious, keeping you wondering where it will go and how this group of Shamans will be able to complete their rather difficult task. It is imaginative and fun, and a must have for the fantasy fan. This story is quite addictive, making you want to read more of Olivia Lawson and SK along with the exciting world where Shamanism is in use, and yet still an underground and unspoken ritual.

Rating 4/5
Shaman, Healer, Heretic

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Scarab by Scott Rhine

Article first published as Book Review: The Scarab by Scott Rhine on Blogcritics.

Car Racing, gaming, and espionage do not seem to go together and yet they make a great combination. There is action, adventure and excitement all of which create an adrenalin rush which hold the fans of each at it long into the after-hours.

In The Scarab by Scott Rhine, we enter into a virtual reality form of racing and espionage, full of excitement and danger. The action is fast and the vehicles are faster, built by the gamers themselves, to win by whatever method works. Ethan Hayes is a young man down on his luck. He is still paying off the medical bills from his mother’s treatment and does not expect to ever get anywhere in life due the amounts due, in an effort to stave off the disease that was killing her. Ethan himself is a hemophiliac and it colors everything he does in life. He is a good mechanic and during the day, he takes care of the business, but at night, he puts on his other hat. He is a gamer and his second life revolves around GEVSIM. In this life, his alter ego is known as the Scarab.
This game with Ground Effect Vehicles is first made popular though colleges, but now accepted and played worldwide. He uses the shops computers after hours and no one is the wiser. It is during his play that he first begins to notice the anomalies. Something illegal is going on and since the satellite guidance systems are all under Federal jurisdiction, they require a special type of Marshal to patrol them. The local police vehicles could not accelerate fact enough to catch the perpetrators before they could get out of city limits. The only person he knows that is a member of the patrol is his friend Mary Anne Anselm.

They met just after high school and dated for some time, but when she began to get serious and wanted marriage he decided he could not put her in that situation. First, his blood-clotting problem was genetic, and there was the issue with his debt. Marriage would make her legally responsible for the money as well. Deciding to report his findings to her, she agrees to follow up on the information. When he is called into the station for more questions, he finds that his discovery has now put him in a delicate situation. The police want his program that shows how he found the speeders, and they want it with no strings attached. When an attorney shows up, hired by his friend Mary Anne, he is able to get out of the jam with his program still his own and intact.

Suddenly he finds that he may not be in the crisis that he had assumed. Nigel, his attorney is not only able to get him money for his project but also able to get his mother medical bills expunged. The money he made on his discovery plus some his father’s life insurance would have to be spent post haste, and when he finds he has just over $100,000 left he decides to enter his latest design in the SimCon Gev. He would be racing side by side with some of the best in the world, the game is international and there is a great deal of money at stake. With both Mary Anne and Nigel at his side, he is ready to take on the world and prove his capabilities. When things begin to go wrong, with vehicles tampered with and people murdered, Ethan, now known again as the Scarab in racing circles, seems to be in the middle. When Mary Anne is kidnapped and an Undercover FBI operative is murdered, the Scarab must dig deep to find the clues to save his friends. Can he figure out who is behind the espionage before it is too late?

Rhine has written a fast-paced novel full of suspense and danger. While I do not understand the gaming world, he made it seem quite fascinating. Racing has always been a popular form of recreation, and doing it with these GEV’s in a virtual reality situation just seemed quite extraordinary. As I was explaining the book to one of my friends who is a gamer, he was quite enthralled with the possibilities. He is not a reader and yet assured me that a book like this would be something that would get him off the computer and into reading.

Some of the explanations were over my head and yet Rhine did such a good job of explanation that I was able to stay on track. There was fun, suspense, danger, and romance all brought together in this amazing race.

This would be a great read for the suspense and action aficionado. The action is frenetic and the intricacies of the dialogue are garnered to the gamers and racing fans around us. The story is interesting, and yet it may not appeal to some due to the very things that also make it work. I struggled with much of the virtual dialogue, but the racing itself was what drew me. If you enjoy gaming and virtual simulation this suspenseful and action packed thriller will draw you in.

Rating 4/5

The Scarab

This book was received as a free copy from Smashwords. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Before the Witches by Karina Cooper

Posted first on The Romance Reviews

Karina Cooper brings us a story full of pain and suffering, yet exploding with sensuality and a searing sexual tension that takes your breath away. Ekaterina Zhuvova known as Katya is one of the many young women forced into a life of depravity, giving her body to men with little care for where or who these young women are. Nigel Ferris is an undercover officer trying to bust the man behind the human slavery ring ready to rescue these women from their fate. But Katya has another secret as well, one that could very well get her killed.

As tensions increase, all hell breaks loose when an earthquake begins to shake the building. Having been through a few in the Seattle area in the past, Nigel is nevertheless surprised. Using his own body to cover Katya, trying to save her from harm, further fuels the flame of their desire. Leaving the building for his own sanity as well as further instruction, the land continues to rumble as the fault continues shifting. Creating traffic difficulties and deaths, the danger surrounds the area, creating hazards and casualties at every turn. Finally making it to the station, Nigel reports his recent finding to the department. Looking for the kingpin in this organization, he is having trouble with the Station Chief. She does not necessarily believe they will find the man behind the atrocities.

Finally getting agreement, he heads out to find further clues when he is directed to an area of disaster. It appears to be coming from the very brothel where he had just left Katya. As he approaches the building, he finds that the structure is crumbling, and all the young women are outside, all that is, except Katya. Hearing a gun shot, he enters to find Katya in dire shape, and even as he begins her rescue, the earth continues to shift. The quakes are coming faster and destruction more wide spread. The whole area is set to implode and they must make their escape. Knowing he must not let her out of his site, he allows the others to go their own way, but Katya must remain.

Karina Cooper builds a story of destruction that is eminently believable. The landmarks are real and the possibilities of volcanic eruptions in the area are not without some background. The Characters are very strong and exciting. The young women in the brothel are not yet beaten down by their profession and yet they are used to the expectation of pain. It is both uncomfortable and unnerving.

The passion and sensuality are riveting, the heat between Nigel and Katya, is a force of its own. She has weaved in an endearing quality in both characters, making them very likable and extremely human. The story is quite wonderful; it builds and creates an unbelievable tension. As friends and family, begin to die in the endless madness, you look for answers. What is happening and where will it all end?

The buildup is exceptional and quite creative, and yet I was disappointed on how it all worked out. Confusion seemed to ensue, and the story did not bring the pieces together for me. The story line was a good one creating high hopes from the beginning. It began with an explosion and yet did not hold true to the ending.

Rating 3/5
Before the Witches

This Book was received as a free down load through Net Galley. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Transit by Kathleen Gerard

Article first published as Book Review:In Transit by Kathleen Gerard on Blogcritics.

In the world of law enforcement, there are the heroes, those men and women dedicated to right and justice. They put their lives on the line in order that we might continue our freedom and lives. On the other side of the coin are those that are known as dirty, they take advantage of the situations in which they find themselves, taking money and drugs in exchange for allowing the criminals to continue to ply their trade.

In Transit by Kathleen Gerard, we follow the life of a young woman, Rita Del Vecchio. A server by trade, she also takes ballet because of her love of dance. On a whim after getting her fortune told, she decides to become a police officer. Little does she realize the strength and attitude she will have to develop in order to succeed. Her training almost derails her. When graduation looms, and even with the battering of comments she receives from the trainer, he passes her through. He even admits that he admires her spunk, and she graduates with the rest of her class. Assigned to transit, she and her new partner, Franko O’Malley become best friends.

Rita has always been attracted to men in uniform and when she meets a young handsome office Billy Quinn, she is enamored immediately. Billy is kind and loving, everything she has been looking for in a man, and within three months, they are married. Even leading up to the wedding both her instructor and her partner try to get her to take some time, and let her know that Billy may not be the man she thinks he is. Ignoring their advice, she goes on with her plans.

On her wedding day, she immediately meets a very different Billy, a dark and dangerous man. One she does not know and who frightens her. During her honeymoon, he is back to the Billy she understands, but she finds that he is not exactly who she expected but more the man her friends warned her about. Controlling and jealous, he rages over her relationship with anyone she meets. She will not allow him to control her life. She sets her own expectations, and while Billy backs down on the surface, internally he rages on.

As their life begins to unravel further, Billy gets deeper into his drug deals and protection money, as Rita maintains her life as an officer on the job of protection. When threats begin to pile in to the department, threats against her own partner, but her husband as well, she finally realizes he is leading a double life.

When her partner is murdered, and the IAD becomes be interested in the rumors and leaks they are receiving, danger begins to surround her. Not only has her partner been murdered, but her husband has also turned on her. Can she get her life back in line and back on a course of normalcy? Will her divorce stop the threats from her husband? Is there really a chance at real life for Rita?

Kathleen Gerard has written a dark and dangerous story based on emotions. The police work and interactions are well done, but the emotions spur the story. She follows the evolutions of feelings and the changes that continue, those based off actions and reactions to real and imagined activities. The characters are well written, detailed in a way that draws you in. Rita begins with her head in the clouds and even when things become dangerous, she still believes the best in human nature.

There is a certain naivety about Rita. It creates a charming and likable person, and yet there appears to be an inner core of strength that helps her to stay true to herself even in the worst of times. Her Partner Franko is a wonderful man, trying his best to do the right thing by trying to make up for the death of a homeless woman. He feels responsible, even though he was not at fault, so he constantly helps those other homeless when he can. Her previous trainer, Officer Hill remains her rock. The one person she can rely on when her world threatens to turn to ruin.

If you enjoy suspense and danger with romance and great characters, you will enjoy this book. It is quick paced and full of action, with an eye to realism and human emotions. This would be a great book for your library.

Rating 5/5
In Transit

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Kathleen Gerard's Bio:

Kathleen Gerard writes across genres. Her fiction has been awarded The Perillo Prize, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award and was nominated for Best New American Voices, all national prizes in literature. Her prose and poetry have been widely published in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR). Several of her plays have been staged and performed regionally and off-Broadway.

Book Description:
Can a rookie cop survive the men who cross her path in the NYPD?

When a psychic in a shopping mall tells Rita Del Vecchio that she is "destined for greatness," and she will "marry a man in uniform," the restless, wet-behind-the-ears, 22 year-old decides to finally take control of her life. Rita sets out on a quest to become a New York City Police Officer. But can a spry, feisty, single woman thrive in the gritty world of New York's Finest?

Leaving behind the suburbs of New Jersey and a job as an under-tipped waitress, Rita Del Vecchio hangs up her apron and ballet slippers for a bullet-proof vest. But will she wear it? And if she does, will it protect her on the mean streets of Manhattan? Can it also protect her from Cupid’s arrows if they should land amiss?

Rita is assigned to the New York City Transit Police Squad and gets more than she bargained for. Riding the Lexington Avenue Subway Line, Rita winds up meeting not one man in uniform, but many. Whom will she love?

In Transit is a woman-in-jeopardy story that delves into the ordinary lives of NYPD career cops and how their fates are often determined by people who hold secrets as dark and as labyrinth-like as the New York City Subway System.

Price: $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149665
Pages: 284
Release: May 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

Origial Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure

Article first published as Book Review: Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure by Beth McMullen on Blogcritics.

Being a working mother and raising a child is already a difficult job with responsibilities that create chaos in an otherwise routine existence. What would happen if the job were anything but routine? What if instead of going to the office, you worked in the government for the United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Destruction? (USAWMD)

In Original sin: A Sally Sin Adventure by Beth McMullen, we find some interesting answers to this question, as we follow the life and adventures of Sally Sin. Now Sally Sin is only a pseudonym and not her real name at all. Lucy Parks Hamilton is a mom and is happily married to the man of her dreams. Her life before meeting her husband Will, or even before her precocious child Theo came into being was anything but normal. In fact, much of what she did was extremely classified.

Lucy Hamilton is now a stay at home mom. However, little did she realize just how paranoid she would be after leaving the service. Often her days are spent staring at the door of her son’s preschool, just to make sure he is safe. She feels like she over reacts when she hear bushes rustling, or catches something out of the corner of her eye, and she certainly worries constantly about being found by her old nemesis. She tells herself she does not miss her old life, and she believes it most of the time. She loves being a wife and mother, but she can feel her paranoia beginning to spin out of control.

When her old handler shows up needing her expertise, she declines just as any mother would. Her past has no place in her presence, or does it? Her husband has no idea of her background, and she has been free of the job for over 10 years. Why now? As she begins to understand her family is at risk, she has no choice but to get back into the fold. But how does she do that and still maintain her secrecy? Will taking care of this one last job for the agency free her from her fear and cut her final link to the past?

This is a fun and action filled spy adventure that takes you along for a novel ride. Beth McMullen has developed a cast of wonderful characters, and created a fun and exciting story of adventure. Sally Sin is back, and her character is one you can really enjoy. Very funny and engaging, she is anything but a normal mom. She has all the caring and love for her family, but she also has the instincts and patterns of the job she thought she had left. McMullen has found a unique way of marrying the spy and the mom and making a very credible and fun story.

Each character is well thought out, and in some cases just a bit mysterious. Through all the various attempts at her life, Lucy is able to continue to juggle her family and keep them safe. I enjoyed the humor and intrigue, as well as the thought process that is important to the story.

If you enjoy Cozy Mysteries, and just a fun and action filled read with both humor and subtlety, you will enjoy the premise of this book. It is engaging and fun, I look forward to reading further adventures of Sally Sin.

This would be a great book for a trip or just a summertime treat. It is light and funny, with just a bit of darkness and evil twisted into the mix. The characters leap from the page, and the danger to Sally keeps you guessing how she will react. Yet each time you may find yourself surprised, she is quite adept at what she does. The pace will keep you turning the pages, and the story will have you chuckling. It is a must have summer read for the lighthearted mystery and spy fan.

Rating 4/5
Original Sin

This Book was recieved as an ARC. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Acadia, Book 1: The Lost King and the Goddess of Time by Ali M. Naqvi

The battle between lightness and dark has gone on since the beginning of time, but how does one always know which is which, when the lines are sometimes blurred on each side.

In Acadia: Book One: The Lost King and the Goddess of Time, Ali M. Naqvi has given us an interesting look into the life of a boy. This is the story of Damont, who is by birth a King, and yet with no knowledge of his background or heritage. Brought up in a small village by a man presumed to be his uncle he is ready to shake the dust of his small village and become more than what his is.

When his uncle returns from a very mysterious trip, he insists that it is time for Damont to go with him to the city. Damont is concerned with the secrets he see in his uncle’s eyes, but he is ready. It is only as they make their way, that Damont begins to get an inkling of the changes in store. As he reaches Haldina and meets the Duke as well as the Lady Kynthia, Queen of the Illyiumian Kingdom, it is only now he finds he is born the last King of Acadia. Born a Langorn, he is a part of the prophecy to bring the land and people together one more time.

Not everyone is happy about his return. There are those willing to destroy everything necessary to make sure Damont never realizes his destiny.

Naqvi has written a tale full of life, and danger. His characters are quite likable and charismatic. Along with humans, he has peopled it with gods and demigods, vampires, and sorcerers. I found it a bit of a slow read because there was so much going on. A few times, I found myself going back because I felt I might have missed some nuances.

The tale is epic and we follow Damont and his friends on his quest to find the answers to his birth as well as his place in the new history of his world. He must learn to trust his companions and learn to believe in something he grew up thinking of as fairy tales.

The story is quite bold and told in the fashion of most epics, full of war and death, and a tale of the gods playing in the life of the humans they lord over. It is fantastical and quite interesting, with a smooth delivery. Even with the scope of the adventure, and bringing in the different factions, it is pretty easy to follow the action.

Damont is in over his head and must rely on those closest to him to help guide him in the right direction. When he finally reaches his quest, he learns more about himself than he is prepared to hear, and yet it now begins to all make sense.

If you enjoy high fantasy you will really enjoy the Book of Acadia, it begins with this story and brings to light the story of how it all begins. Beginning with the coming to light of the King, and with some background as to the Goddess of Time and her place in the world, we are pulled into the timeless fight of the land of Acadia. Naqvi has done a marvelous job of building a story and makes you want to read what happens next in this wonderful world.

He has done an exciting job of world building and his characters leap off the pages. I look forward to hearing more from him in the future. I am left wondering what is in store for Damont and his friends.

Rating 4/5
Acadia, Book 1: the Lost King and the Goddess of Time

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.